Sometimes it can feel like life is all over the place. Work is a mess, home is a mess and your life just needs a good old-fashioned overhaul. You don’t have to tackle everything at once, but sometimes it helps to see the top list of solutions listed in one place.
1. Start using Dropbox. This fantastic Web-based storage system is the best backup-without-thinking-about-it solution we know of. Rather than saving everything to your desktop, Dropbox saves all of your files in “the cloud,” which means you can access them from any computer, anywhere, using your user name and password.
Just download the app, make Dropbox your main “virtual filing cabinet” (using any filing names and conventions you want) and you never have to think about backing up again.
The program will automatically update and sync files between the cloud and your computer whenever it’s online.
So those vacation pictures you just uploaded to your computer — yes, they’re backed up, too. We’ve used it for years, love it and never lost a file.
2. Adopt a systematic file-naming convention. The No. 1 virtual time-waster? Hunting for files you know you have but just can’t seem to find. Pick a simple naming convention that you use on every file you create, from spreadsheets to Word documents.
Nobody is judging your file names, so make them descriptions you’ll know and understand. A format we love: “date created — file name.”
3. Schedule regular digital clean-outs. Set aside time to regularly clean out your files. Whether it’s five minutes on Friday afternoons or 20 minutes once a month, weed through and delete folders and files that are past their prime.
1. Use a pen and notebook. This is the simplest and neatest way to keep track of to-dos, to-calls and other notes.
We especially love the built-in delegation component to our Do&Delegate.list ($8.95) at getbuttonedup.com/, but really, a $1.99 composition notebook can be effective, too.
2. Keep paper filing basic. What matters most is that you can put your hands on the files you need, quickly. So keep your system simple — and use stacking files, as they are great for file people and pile people.
Pick one day a week to file papers that are taking up valuable desk space. If you come across a paper that doesn’t fit in an existing file folder, keep it in a “general” folder for a week. Once a month, take 15 minutes and clean out your folders.
3. Establish a cleanup routine. Sadly, cleaning the clutter on your desk is not a one-shot deal.
The key to keeping it under control is to do one or two things to organize your office on a regular enough basis so you avoid the big ordeal of having to dig out from under a massive mess.
1. Fine-tune your knife skills. Find a community college, culinary school or shop, or even a local restaurant, where you can sharpen your skills with a knife. It doesn’t sound like much, but knowing how to wield a knife and properly chop can shave minutes off your prep time in the kitchen.
2. Have some “Get Out of Cooking Free” dishes in the freezer. Whether the meeting ran late, you aren’t feeling up to snuff or you simply don’t want to break out the saute pan, there are going to be some days that you won’t be able to cook. Plan ahead and make double portions of certain dishes, like lasagna, that freeze well.
Put yourself on list
1. Make it a judgment- and guilt-free zone. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need lofty goals in order to set aside time for yourself. You don’t always need to work toward something — it just needs to be a time for you to recharge.
2. Schedule it. Whether it’s one hour a week or an afternoon on the weekends, make sure that you build it into your schedule. If you don’t, you won’t do it. It’s that simple.
3. Build your support system. Don’t be afraid to ask others for assistance, whether it is watching the kids or providing emotional support. Get creative about asking for help.
Starting a new diet? Ask your husband to shelve the family outings to the ice-cream parlor. Need someone to watch the kids while you try a new Pilates class? Switch off with a neighbor.
The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized. Send ideas and questions to email@example.com.