January 31, 2008

100 surefire ways to organize your busy life

This is a static post - please scroll down for new posts!

This book is the project I hinted at in this post.

I got together with 3 awesome business owners and we put together this 40-page book in record time. Nothing like group excitement and accountability to get us moving!

I am so proud of how this turned out and I know you're going to LOVE it!

You can get your copy of this gorgeous FREE book at http://organiseyourbusiness.com/.

Let me tell you a little bit about my co-authors:

Beth Dargis has been my accountability partner since November 2006. We chat every Friday night (Jhb time) and set weekly goals for our businesses. Beth is a Simplicity Expert and helps us all get rid of the crazy! Beth and I are exact opposites (she centres me when I want to go off on another hare-brained scheme) so we complement one another very well.

I met Suzanne McLoone last year through blogging and we've been blog buddies ever since. I call Suzanne the Outlook Whiz because seriously, she knows every little tip and secret you would ever wish to know about Outlook :)

And then last, but by no means least, Ariane Benefit. Ariane writes for a gazillion blogs and is my fellow contributor on Clutter Control Freak --->> Ariane is a professional organiser who specialises in ADD and ADHD issues. Ariane is SO busy but I will not rest until I convert her to my Eat the Frog philosophy. Yes, Ariane - only 6 things!

So, go meet my co-authors, browse around their sites, sign up for their tips (they're all good, I promise - I am also signed up) but before you go...

Don't forget to get your copy of the book.

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how to set yourself up for a healthy week

Weigh-Less is a weight management system, I think that's what they call it, but it really is more than that - it's a lifestyle.

I lost about 5,5 kg before we went to Thailand in October 2006 and have only put on 1,5 of that weight in the 15 months since then, through months of inactivity. I would now like to lose that 1,5 plus another 1.5, just so I look a bit better in my pants :)

The tiny weight gain shows me that I've learnt to eat correctly, that I choose well when we do eat out and that in most cases, I prefer the healthier choice.

Today I had a cup of tomato soup, rye toast and chunky, fat-free cottage cheese for lunch. Yum!!! That might seem boring to you but is one of my favourite lunches.

So how do I set myself up (and I choose these words quite intentionally) for a healthy week?

1. on the weekend, I prepare all my breakfasts as in the collage photo above. Those are raisins at the bottom and I alternate two kinds of cereal (the All-bran flakes are healthier so you're allowed more)
2. I do the same with my breads in plastic containers, and freeze those until the night before.
3. I also make sure we have enough fruit and vegetables for the week.
4. every evening while I cook or defrost supper, I pack my lunch bag with breakfast, lunch and snacks. I then put it in the fridge and in the mornings, I just walk through the kitchen, grab the bag and I'm out the door to work.

Easy, isn't it?

You can see it all comes down to planning well.

What can you do to set yourself up for a healthier week?

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January 29, 2008

Set one BIG goal

I joined a high-end coaching club recently and one of the first things we were asked to do was to set one BIG goal.

Well, I have no problem thinking big so I posted my BIG goal in the online forum, clicked SEND and then reality smacked me on the head.

Oh my word - what have I just done?

I had no idea how it was going to happen so I started feeling a bit scared.

Anyway, an amazing thing happened when I was driving later that day. (Good ideas always come to me either driving or in the shower - I think because my brain's finally quiet ;))

I had an idea which I quickly wrote down in the notebook I keep in my car and when I got home, I typed out an email to 3 friends, sent it and then shut down Outlook.

When I checked email about 2 hours later, all 3 said, "great, let's do it" and that was the start of making my BIG goal a reality.

I'm going to blog about the result of that email next week, so stay tuned, because I'm very, very proud of this project!

The point is if you set your intention by writing down your goal, the how will come to you!

Coaching action step

  1. Write down your one big goal for the next 30, 60 or 90 days.
  2. For extra accountability, leave it in my comments. Go on, I dare you ;)
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January 26, 2008

Healthy pumpkin pasta sauce

You'll know of my love affair with red kidney beans if you scroll through the recipes in the In the kitchen category :)

I wanted to make a quick pasta sauce to use up with some red kidney beans I had in the freezer.

I intended to make a cheesy white sauce with a couple tablespoons All Joy hot & spicy pasta sauce (they're about R12,99 each at Pick & Pay - they all taste great) to give it a bit of zing.

My white pasta sauces always have onion and mushrooms to start because I'm always looking for ways to add some extra veggies.

Then I had a bright idea to add some pumpkin (I love pumpkin with that hot pasta sauce - that combo just works) to the sauce. Judging from this picture, I think I added a tablespoon already because it's quite yellow.

Okay, and here's the rest of the mashed pumpkin added. I probably added about 150 - 200g - sorry I can't be more precise; that's how I cook! Nice and bright orange! You can also see the kidney beans are in. I only had 100g.

And then I added the cooked spaghetti and heated it through. It was so delicious. You don't even know there's so much vegetables in there.

So that's how I make (what could be) fattening pasta, healthy!

If you want, you could grate some cheese and zap in the microwave for about 30 seconds until it melts. For me, that defeats the whole purpose of cooking healthy but sometimes I'm a nice wife and I'll do it like that for Dion :)

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January 24, 2008

Thursday 13 - my blogging policy for 2008

2007 was great for many reasons, one of the main ones being blogging.

However, as with any good thing, if you don’t put some boundaries into place, it can quickly take you over to the dark side ;)

So this year I decided to put together a blogging policy of sorts.

Here is where I’m at – please add your own ideas too!

1. I blog on the Organising Queen blog 3 times a week – usually Mon, Wed and Fridays --->>
2. I blog on this blog 3 times a week – usually Tues, Thurs and Saturdays.
3. I’m blogging on Clutter Control Freak once a week --->>
4. I will repurpose blog posts freely between the 3 blogs in an effort to use my time wisely.
5. If I find myself writing a long comment on a blog, I immediately paste it into my drafts so that I can make a blog post out of it.
6. I read blogs exclusively through my Google Reader so the blogs who publish a full feed get read “properly” every day, the ones who only publish a partial feed only get clicked through if I feel I MUST write a comment.
7. Of the partial feed blogs (Laura, I mentioned this in a comment on your blog), I’ll only read full posts once a week.
8. I will not spend more than 20 minutes writing any one blog post. This translates to about 15 minutes writing time and 5 minutes adding photos, uploading to Blogger, etc.
9. I always respond to comments either through email (definitely within 24 hours) or through the blog (a bit longer).
10. Life is for living. We blog because we have “life stuff” to blog about. So I must keep it all in the right perspective.
11. I will lurk with pleasure and not feel pressure to comment on every post. And by the same token, not get hung up about getting comments & stats. I know the readers are there ;)
12. I blog to improve my writing skills, improve my creativity and create content and I will keep these reasons clear and utmost in my mind at all times.
13. My priority is always to blog first, read second and comment third!

Jeepers – that was hard!

Why do you blog?

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January 22, 2008

Empathy for your fellow man

Have you heard of Jen Lemen?

If you haven't, you're missing out!

She is such a kind and beautiful person and writes such inspiring blog posts.

Go read this one and be prepared to be changed! Especially if you live in Joburg! Joburg people are not generally known for their compassion! :)

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January 19, 2008

What is your core brilliance?

I really suck at detailed work with lots of action steps. I hate it. It feels tedious, repetitive and like a total waste of time.

(that's why if I know I'm going to be doing something more than once, I write out the steps and make a checklist so I never have to remember that stuff again)

So when people think I'm brilliant at doing something, chances are I have a well-oiled system in the background :)

Hey, I'm a time management coach - it's my job to do something once and have it work for me over and over again :)

I'd like to introduce you to Angela, one of the key components of my well-oiled system.

Angela is my virtual assistant who submits my gazillion articles (okay, 25 to date :)) to all the article directories.

I write the article, email it to Ang and she works her magic and sends me my trusty spreadsheet, all updated with the URLs.

I do this so that I can focus on my unique brilliance and not spend unnecessary time on the stuff I hate doing.

Are you spending time on things you really shouldn't be doing?

I remember one of my very first coaching clients who insisted that he had to wash his own car every weekend. I asked him if his time couldn't be better spent building his business, thinking up and implementing new ideas.

He wasn't convinced but I asked him to just "humour me" and try it once.

So off he went to a car wash, took a notebook and a book to help him build his business with him. He spent a lovely 30 minutes learning and thinking about good
business ideas and THEN only was he convinced :)

Today, he definitely prefers to build his business rather than wash his own car!

By the way, Ang and I have a sweet deal going - we exchange virtual assistance for coaching. I got this cool idea from Pamela Slim. Ang tracks the time she works for me and when she reaches x, I coach her on her own business for an hour. Win-win
What are you spending time on that you shouldn't be doing at all?

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January 17, 2008

Have you heard about Parkinson's Law

Don't let that big name scare you off!

Parkinson's Law states that work expands to fill the time available for it.

What does this mean?

If you say, "I'm going to spend 2 hours every evening this week decluttering my inbox, files and folders" you will use all of that time to get the job done. And in some instances, a lot more :)

However, if you say, "I only have 2 hours to declutter my computer" you will get it done. You might run a bit over…especially if you haven't estimated properly but it will be nowhere near the 10 hours you'd previously set aside.

If you're on my mailing list, I mentioned a few weeks ago that one of my biggest goals this year is to work less.

So I decided to test old Parkinson :)

I already know that when I decide to focus, I generally take 20 minutes to write a blog post so I figured to write an article should take me 60 minutes because there's structure, making sure everything makes sense, etc, etc.

Before this working less goal, I'd say, "I'm writing the weekly newsletter on Monday night" and sure enough, it would take me about 2 - 3 hours to finish.

Well, I want to tell you that for the past 3 weeks, I have taken between 31 and 42 minutes to write my weekly tips article. Amazing!

Of course, the balance of the hour has been used to set it up nicely, check that all hyperlinks work properly and get it ready so I just have to press send later that week.

Coaching tip

  1. Think about a task you need to do in the next week
  2. Set a realistic amount of time to complete it
  3. Now set your timer and GO

Let me know how it works out for you - I would love to know!
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January 15, 2008

Why good girls don't get ahead and gutsy girls do

click picture to go to Kate White's gorgeous website
This is the most fabulous business book I’ve read in years! And also my quickest non-fiction read in YEARS!

Honestly, I just picked it up at the library on an impulse because the title grabbed me. Isn’t it a great title?

Read the summary here

Although I have a very sassy streak, I found I have many “good girl” tendencies although a fair bit of office policitics over the years definitely helped me wise up – and quickly too!

One of my highest values is fairness and actually, the sooner you realise that life isn’t fair, the more content you’ll be. Not going around like me muttering to myself that life isn’t fair and other such things ;)

I thought because this book was written ages ago (1995) most of the information would be outdated but the opposite is true – everything is still very relevant. I resonated throughout the whole book and loved it.

So this year, one of my goals is to be more gutsy.

I’m already quite good at breaking rules and being singularly focussed. You guys know I have no problems setting boundaries ;) I’m thick-skinned and don’t mind if people don’t like me.

I’m going to take more risks, speak up more and ask for what I want, face trouble head-on, trust my instincts more, and walk and talk like a winner (getting my professional headshots was already on my goals list for this year).

How can you be more gutsy this year (in your business and life)?

I'm very happy to help you get more confidence - email me personally on marcia @ takechargesolutions.org (without the spaces)
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January 12, 2008

Thank-you notes - are they a lost art?

the cards on the left are from our wedding nearly 13 years ago!

I love sending thank-you notes.

I always have some available and when we were in Malaysia and I saw the cute thank-you pad in the picture, I snapped it up. It's the size of a medium post-it pad but not sticky.

I use the little pad for small things on colleagues' desks like "thanks again for helping me" etc, etc. And if I'm feeling really grateful, I'll even add a chocolate :)

[Remember I kick butt in my job - seriously :) - I am a relationship and operations manager so I have to get lots of people to do stuff for me and many times I have to make them do miracles for my corporate clients so I am very grateful when it all comes together on time]

You should always do thank-you notes immediately otherwise you forget and then it becomes awkward. BUT even that's no excuse - write it down immediately and you can always send the card later.

Now that Christmas is over, use the back of Christmas cards (if the people haven't written on the back of the picture) to use as thank-you notes.

Do you send thank-you notes? Or even thank-you emails? I would love to know!

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January 10, 2008

How to become a professional organiser

Something amazing happened in November last year.

A reader contacted me with some questions on how to become a professional organiser.

We exchanged some emails and when I realized she was based in Port Elizabeth, I suggested a laser coaching session since we were going to be there in just a few weeks.

Well, Rae and I met for our session in PE and it was fabulous. I always have lots of ideas so these sessions are really creative and inspiring. Rae is such a compassionate, caring person and is a great listener!

And here's what Rae sent me in an email afterwards:

I was stuck in a lifestyle rut with my world "just ticking over". I needed a new challenge but hadn't been doing anything to make it happen.

Then I contacted you, Marcia, and everything changed. What a vibrant and enthusiastic person you are. You encouraged me to become a professional organiser and even gave me a contact.

I now believe that 2008 will be my year and that it is never too late "to make things happen".

To a very special person, thank you so much, you have given me back my confidence.

Rae Bradbury

Professional Organiser

If you're thinking about becoming a professional organiser, this is your year too.

I "fell into" this quite by accident (helping out a friend) but I found that this supported my coaching business very nicely, especially since I'd always coached on time management, goal-setting and other such topics.

You can either book some coaching with me (I have a 27-page workbook which I throw in free - oh, probably a R150 value) or buy Tracey's 3-DVD set. Remember I only endorse products which I've personally used; this is GREAT product and if memory serves me correctly, I gave Tracey a testimonial for it too ;)

If you're not sure, then book an intro session with me and we can take it from there.

Here is another testimonial...from another PO I helped for 3 months late last year

WOW I loved being held accountable and as a result got so much more done. Taking my goals and breaking them down into bite sized pieces was super, having your creativity to bounce ideas off of, was phenomenal. I enjoyed our relaxed phone chats, and in no way did you make me feel as though I’d failed. In fact your encouragement that poured through was soul refreshing and spurred me on to greater things. Thanx Marcia for your input into my life, I felt as though we connected well and I appreciated your sensitivity and encouragement in my life.


Debbie Herholdt
Sunshine Organizer (her website was one of the goals she accomplished while working with me)

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P.S. if you're in Port Elizabeth and you need organising help, tell me and I'll hook you up with Rae ;)

January 08, 2008

Looking back (just quickly) over 2007

Suzanne wrote about her year’s highlights in her latest Let's Talk Organizing newsletter. Beth also wrote a Celebrating 2007 post here. I enjoyed reading them both so much I thought I should do the same.

It’s good to chronicle where you’ve come from especially if you’re someone like me who is always onto the next challenge.

  1. My business income increased by 177% (gosh, I’d love it if that were overall :))
  2. My mailing list subscribers increased by 700% - I’m very pleased about this
  3. Wrote 3 new e-courses, the latest one being Organise your Home
  4. Wrote 9 new downloadable products, with my newest one, 7 easy steps to organise your office, being my best seller EVER!
  5. Wrote 230 posts on the Organising Queen blog and 190 posts on the Take Charge blog. Interestingly enough, at the end of 2007, had published 253 posts to the one and 254 posts to the other. Cool, hey?
  6. Started writing for Clutter Control Freak, which I am loving --->>
  7. Spoke to my biggest group (for money) of 150 people because speaking to my high school as SRC chairman doesn’t count!
  8. Worked one-on-one with 17 wonderful coaching and organising clients

What do you want to highlight from last year?
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January 05, 2008

Quick & Easy supper - kidney bean pasta salad

This is a delicious, quick and easy meal to throw together, especially on warm evenings like we're having in Johannesburg right now.

Our afternoon thundershowers are so, so welcome just to cool things down a bit.

Anyway, back to the kitchen...

I assemble each of our meals separately because I like more vegetables but if you're not fussy, then just double the ingredients and serve in two bowls later, okay?

Ingredients (per person)

  • 200g cooked pasta shapes of your choice
  • 100g red kidney beans (just because they look so pretty); lentils also work (if you really don't like legumes, use chicken)
  • 1 small apple, cored and diced (with skin)
  • 40g onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plain, low-fat yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
  • salt, pepper, italian herbs to taste

Mix everything well in a bowl bigger than your serving dish (otherwise you can't stir properly)Garnish with a sprig of parsley (I like coriander)


P.S. This is a great way to use up leftovers!

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January 03, 2008

25 things I never get tired of

Have you seen this post on Jen Lemen’s blog?

Since I read about the 25 things there, I've also read it on 2 other blogs I follow, so I’m playing along :)

25 things I never get tired of, in no particular order

1. rain (it’s raining here as I type this and I am LOVING it)
2. gorgeous grey skies
3. children’s laughter
4. reading in bed
5. a lovely cold glass of water
6. Cadbury’s chocolate
7. taking photos of food
8. inspiring confidence in people ;)
9. the smell of bookshops
10. buying notebooks
11. walking on grass, barefoot
12. garlic and garlic bread
13. the beach
14. watching people at the airport
15. ice-cold weather
16. soppy love songs
17. the smell of coffee
18. hugging and kissing Dion
19. anything with apple and/ or cinnamon
20. laughing
21. hearing “I love you”
22. walking into an uncluttered, organised room 
23. feeling a gorgeous texture on a handbag or wallet
24. creamy pasta
25. baking muffins

What do you never get tired of? If you do this on your blog, let me know in the comments

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January 01, 2008

5 things you must do to have more time

Happy New Year and welcome to 2008.

At this time of year, I'm always busy working on my goals.

If you look up the word goals in the dictionary, chances are my picture's there :) I joke, but only just! Those who know me in real life will tell you how my eyes light up when someone just mentions the word goals :)

Well, one of the most common goals my clients tell me about is that they want more time.

Even if that's not one of your main goals, I know that putting just one of this week's tips into practice will save you hours each week:

1. Learn to say no.
What do you have to say no to so that you can say yes to your goals next year? Saying no helps you set strong boundaries.

[If you have the self-confidence handbook or the Simplify your Life e-course, please revisit the section on boundaries]

2. Play to your strengths
With everything in life, I believe you should play to your strengths. You'll never find me cooking a complicated meal because I know I excel at the Quick and Easy and I play to my strengths in the kitchen :)

If you're terrible at cleaning your house, hire a cleaning lady. If you're not great at speaking to crowds, do small workshops. Know your learning style so you can organise according to your personality.

3. Learn to prioritise
When you know how to prioritise, even if you only get one or two things done daily, they will always be the right things and not just busy work.

I don't stress if I have days where it feels like I did hardly anything. 90% of the time, I did the things that matter and that's all that counts.

4. Set up systems
To quote Elizabeth Hagen "systems save you space, time, energy, money and stress".

Meal planning is a system for organising and preparing meals. Regular computer back-up is another system to keep your computer running smoothly.

What kinds of systems can you put in place?

5. Work smarter
Group tasks so that you only do preparation ONCE. Make your client calls all at the same time. You'll be on a roll, get through them a lot faster and save energy because you don't have to get into phone mode more than once.

Make your work do double duty. If you type a certain type of email often, make an auto text entry and save the template. If you write a comment on a blog, expand that same comment and write a blog post of your own. And so on...

Have an organised week!

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Which other clever tips do you have?