Create Personal Door Signs

My personal door sign would be: Silence is Golden.

We have so much chatter, clutter and noise in our lives every day (and I’m one of the few who choose NOT to add a mobile phone to all of that). I love a quiet day. I might run the TV in the background but I find, more often, I forget to turn it on. I seldom pay attention to it so I don’t miss it when it’s just part of the blessed silence.

Most of the time I don’t need to enforce my sign. I ignore the landline, don’t have any other phone and I can check email when I need some time to procrastinate or take a coffee break. I don’ t live alone however. People are harder to do any enforcing about. But, it would be a weird world if I really were completely alone in it.

In order to let our creative side flourish, we often need to set parameters for ourselves in order to pursue and achieve the things we really want to achieve. Often times we simply need to keep different types of spaces as clear as possible so that we don’t get distracted or held back from what we’re passionate about.

For today’s prompt, write and/or draw three signs that you would hang on your home door, work door, or even your forehead to let others know what you allow and don’t allow in your life. For example, a sign might be, “No Gossiping” or “Please Knock First.”Now write about your signs and how you will enforce them, or how you already enforce them. Are there ways you can communicate your signs without actually posting them? Or should one or more of them be physically posted?

Source: Day 4 #NaJoWriMoPrompt: Create Personal Door Signs – National Journal Writing Month

Throw Something Out Today

We keep too much and then get overwhelmed by what we have. Pick something to throw out today. Recycle it if you can but remove it from your home and your life.

Something already garbage does not count. Be fair and give yourself a break.

Get creative.

Give up on fixing something broken. Find a way to give it to someone else (like leaving it at the bottom of the road for someone else to pick up).

Give away something you have not used in years. Consider trinkets and gadgets gathering dust. Offer them to family and friends so someone else can get more use out of them.

Use old stationary to write a letter to someone. The catch is you have to mail it today rather than leave it for tomorrow.

However you do it, remove one piece of clutter from your life today.

Uncluttering your Blog: Keep your Clutter Bug in Check

Clutter builds up on your site quickly if you stop working on it. Each time you add something new to your blog, in the sidebar, the footer or the menu and header – stop and think about it.

  • Is it necessary for your blog readers?
  • Does it say something about yourself and your blog that you actually want to say?
  • Could it be moved to a subpage of your blog and not really be missed?
  • Is it slowing down the load time and, if so, is it worth it?
  • Have you located it in a way which it’s function is easy to understand?
  • Don’t keep any broken links, including images.
  • Consider moving archives, link lists and categories/ tags to their own subpage.
  • Condense and prune your tags and categories. Use a general category for things which don’t fit into the main theme/ topic of your blog.
  • Consider using plain text links rather than image files, widgets and etc.
  • Downsize and/ or double up when giving your own links to be followed on social networks.
  • If you run ads, limit them to ads which are actually performing well.

Tidy Up Your Blog’s Sidebar

Focus on your readers. What are you keeping in your sidebar for yourself? What do you actually read and like to see in a blog sidebar when you read another blog? Let that be your guide to deciding what to keep on your own blog sidebar.

Work out the most important thing in your sidebar and on your blog.Create a list of everything in your sidebar – list them in order of importance. If you have more than ten things choose a few to be voted off the island. See if you can limit your blog sidebar to 5 or fewer items.

Remember, less is more. Put away anything you want to keep but don’t really need on your sidebar. Use features like pages and even your footer to tuck and tidy away extra items.

More to Read

How to Turn Your Room into a Home Office

After getting divorced (after having moved to another country and then back home as well) I have a truckload of belongings and one room to my name. Clutter and chaos and a massive lack of storage space meant I had to part with a lot of things. I was able to store some away in the basement of the house I live in. However, that still leaves me living in a house where I only have the bedroom to use as my own space.

It’s not easy finding space for a home office and a home business. Often people aren’t running a business, but they have their computer and like to have a set up where it is easy to use all their electronic gadgets – like a digital camera, a printer, a scanner, possibly a fax and your recharger for the mobile phone too. That’s a lot of stuff to fit onto a computer desk. But, it can be set up in a corner if you don’t have a lot of clutter.

Treat Yourself to a Decent Computer Desk and Chair

I bought myself a computer desk. It has a shelf on top for the monitor and a shelf at foot level for the computer tower. I keep all the cables running down the backside and once in a while I give them a dusting off. The desk level is where I keep the computer mouse and the mousepad. (You should have a mousepad if you don’t already – they keep your mouse cleaner underneath).

I am currently sitting on the second of my computer chairs. The first wasn’t as comfortable as I thought it was going to be. Make sure you sit in any chair before you buy it. I also put felt furniture pads on the bottom of the chair legs to keep them from marking the floor or making noise when I pull the chair in and out. If a chair isn’t working out a week after you buy it, the store should let you exchange it for another.

It is a good idea to have a footstool as well. This lets you elevate your feet and will help your posture if you are going to be sitting in one place for a while.

Busting your Home Office Clutter

I don’t find it so uncluttered to have my home office set up in the same room I sleep in. But, I’m working with it – so can you, if that’s the space you have to work with.

Two things which are really important are to keep the two areas defined from each other and to stop any build up of stuff. This includes, but is not limited to, laundry, coffee cups, assorted paper, notes and notebooks, pens and the odd toothbrush.

I have been working on finding a space for everything and keeping everything in it’s given space. You may think that is easy, it is not. The paper clutter is the hardest to keep controlled. This is my area to work on all those little things and they soon pile up. I found a small filing cabinet and then I found a short plastic drawer tower (that’s what the manufacturer calls it). I have been trying to keep the paper in the file cabinet and the pens and paper (for drawing on or writing notes) in the drawer tower. I have them, one on either side of my computer desk.

I do have a scanner which is currently under a pile of paper clippings which I was sorting out this morning. There isn’t quite enough room for my scanner on the computer desk right now. I’m working on that. I took an old Mac computer from my sister which I wanted to explore and that is taking up space I really didn’t have to give away.

My cables for the digital camera(s) are on top of my desk. I want to get a hook which I can put up on the wall and then have them hang on the hook. This is a great way to keep them from being lost in the day to day clutter. It also helps prevent them being harmed from getting banged around or stepped on if they slide off the desk and onto the floor accidentally. You can even use a twist tie to wrap the cords so you won’t have them trailing down very far when you hang them up.

I do have a bookshelf too, which is for my non-fiction books only. I have them sorted by topic. I keep the fiction books in a mesh bag as I read each book it goes into the bag to be exchanged at the second hand bookstore. Not keeping every book goes a long way to helping keep clutter cleared up when I don’t have a lot of space.

Keep the Kitchen, Bathroom and Laundry Room out of Your Home Office

Last of all, I have two laundry baskets. One for clothes which are freshly cleaned and ready to be put away. Even if I slack off a bit, the clothes are still not being added to the clutter. The other laundry basket is for dirty clothes to be washed. Clothes are a big problem for clutter. Last winter I did my best to part with some of my clothes. I was surprised how hard it was to let go, even things which I have not worn in awhile for assorted reasons.

Also, I keep a container in the linen closet for all my shampoo, toothpaste and related bathroom things. I don’t like to keep my toothbrush in the bathroom itself. I think it would get mildewy. So it’s great having all those things in a small space of their own.

Another big thing which you should do for your home office is to keep all eating in the kitchen. I do have a coffee here while I’m working. However, I almost never eat food while sitting at the computer. It’s much easier not to have dishes and crumbs and crud on my keyboard and around my work area. Even if your keyboard looks not too gross, try picking it up and turning it upside down. Take a look at your computer mouse too. the bottom of it as well as the top. Clean the gross-ness you have wrought.

Rearrange Furniture to Suit Your Space and Your Needs

If you have more space than a bedroom you can do a lot more with your home office. For me, I have the computer desk on one side of the room and the bed and clothes closet and drawers on the other side. I also have two large storage containers with books, computer CDs/ DVDs and some hair clips, etc. One of these fits inside the clothes closet and the other sits at the bottom of the bed, like an old fashioned hope chest.

Don’t Forget Office Supplies

Office supplies stores can be a lot of fun to shop around in. Start out as a window shopper, looking but not buying much – if anything. Decide what will really be useful, what will fit in your space and is there assembly required (or extras to buy for it). For something like extra pens, pencil crayons, etc. You just need a place to put them. However, it’s nice to have a cork board or a whiteboard, some place to leave yourself notes, stick up magnets or fancy thumb tacks. You should also have a calendar.

Your Business Does Not Need a Blog

senseless bloggingMost businesses need to reconsider keeping a blog for something which would work better for consumers and take less time and energy for the business to maintain.

Why Develop a Blog When a Static Page Will Do?

I was reading a post which encourages businesses to have a blog, as if that is all they need to do. The answer to life, the universe and everything for a business is to have a weblog. It’s not. It’s actually very wrong.

First, let’s sort out what a weblog actually is.

A blog (AKA web log) is an online record of your thoughts, activities and information you choose to share online. A blog is actively updated, which means the posts are dated so they can be read in sequence. A blog is a form of communication which requires frequent maintenance to keep it active. This is not the kind of online communication a business needs.

Secondly, people are not taking time to read everything you blog.

Any business starting online, whether they sell entirely online or just want to set up an online presence, needs basic information available for the consumer. Basic information is not likely to change. Your contact information, what you sell and how you sell it are not going to change daily or weekly or even monthly. Yes, you may have new objects to add to your catalogue but that is a catalogue, not a blog.

A blog is more likely to be information overkill and just make things confused and cluttered looking. What use is a blog if the consumer has to hunt down the address (or some other key information) for your business? A simple site presents the information upfront and keeps it easily visible.

Lastly, running a blog is going to take up too much of your time and energy.

A business online should focus on giving that basic information on a static website. Starting a blog is just putting in more time and energy than you need – especially in the beginning when you really just want people to find you online so you can tell the consumer who you are and what you have to offer. This is not the time to start a blog with articles about what you sell. Just give them the basic information they need. Not all the fancy stuff, the extras and the media hype. Keep it simple.

Don’t put your time and resources into developing a blog just because everyone seems to be doing it these days. Focus on your real goal, not impressing other people with how big your site is or how much traffic your blog gets. Your real goal for a business is sales, not marketing.

Consumers are not asking for more marketing. Less is more, in the eye of the consumer. Consumers want information so they can decide to buy your product or service. The more marketing clutter to add to your message, the less likely a consumer is to find it. So keep it simple. Create a simple site with simple navigation – keep the most important information to the consumer right out front and centre. If you have extras, like a catalogue, give them a link to take them directly there.

A Business Site Should be for the Consumer, not the Business

If you want to add extras to your site think about it in a practical way. What would your consumer really find useful?

  • A catalogue of your goods or services.
  • A contact form with the physical address, email address and phone numbers for your business.
  • A list of prices for your services and packages available.
  • Any events you may be taking part in locally.
  • Specials or promotions or contests currently running.
  • A coupon they can print out. (Or refer to if they don’t have a printer).
  • Your mission statement.
  • Your guarantee or warranty.
  • Your returns policy.
  • A how to guide for using your product.
  • A list of relevant groups or associations locally.
  • Any health warnings or risks.

This is just a generic sort of list. Each business will have their own needs and limits in the information available or necessary for the public and consumers.

Most of the necessary information can be located on one main (index) page of your site. Extras like a catalogue of goods or services can be on another section of the site with a link easily found on the index page.

Make the contact information a priority. Think about your own experience using a site for a business you wanted to know more about. What was the most frustrating thing? For me it is almost always trying to find a way to contact the business. How stupid is that? What was the point of them putting up a site if I can’t ask a question or get some feedback?

If you Still Must have a Blog Make Sure it Adds Value to your Business

If you still must have a blog, spend time planning your goals and strategy for using it.

Make sure the time, energy and resources you will put into the blog will pay off.

Make sure you have the stamina, writing skill and the content to keep a blog active.

In short, make sure the blog is worth the expense of maintaining it. Chances are there are other things you could be doing which would bring you a better return on your resources.

 

Easy ways to Stay Motivated…

Here are some easy ways to stay motivated….

  • CLEAN
  • Treat yourself to a new supply, book or tool
  • Recognize your progress
  • Pick ONE goal
  • Give yourself a reward

Getting things cleaned up is a much bigger help to motivation than anyone who is already tidy and organized would think.

I work in chaos and clutter. I have piles of paper related items all around me it seems. I’ve got them on the surface of my desk – where I could have my little scanner set up and just keep the gear for my camera and nothing else but a hot mug of fresh coffee, if I cleaned it all up. I’ve got books in stacks on the floor because I was going to get to them much sooner than this. Something else comes along and they are moved, shuffled around and soon become part of the landscape rather than something I’m working on currently.

I’ve even got clothes to put away, sort out and disinter from my closet. It’s time for the clothes I haven’t worn in ages to make an appearance out in the world, where someone else can use them.

Clean is a big deal. Not being clean is nothing but a monumental distraction and a drain on your energy.

Writing Well

Originally posted to SuiteU, part of Suite101. SuiteU is being removed from the site. I wanted to save the ecourses so this resource would not disappear.

Writing Well

By Katherine Swarts

Introduction

Professional authors hear it on a regular basis: “I could write a book, too, if I had the time.” Obvious implication: writing is easy. Well, maybe writing is easy. But writing well definitely isn’t. Think back to your earliest school reports. Remember how your teacher insisted on seeing a rough draft before the final copy? And remember how you grumbled, “Why should I do all that extra work?”

Because writing is work. Authors know that. Other people tend to forget after graduating from research papers.

Okay, but you’re not an author, and you don’t care if your byline ever graces so much as a letter to the editor. So why should you bother improving your writing skills?

Because you still have to write: Friendly e-mails/Thank-you notes/Letters of complaint/Office memos/Business reports/You name it.

Read more

Get the Clutter Off Your Desk – Free Yourself!

Tips to Avoid a Cluttered Desk

Start by sorting papers. Just put them in two piles, stuff you need and stuff you can put right into the recycling bin (directly – do not pass Go). Keep a bin, bag or some kind of container right there as you work your way through and get rid of expired coupons, receipts you don’t need, paperwork you’ve already finished, newspaper clippings (anything you kept and don’t remember why). Don’t let yourself get sidetracked into sorting the stuff you are keeping. Just pile it up for now. Focus on getting rid of everything you don’t need. You will feel you actually accomplished something when you have less clutter.

From your pile of papers sort out two piles again. This time sort out work related from personal. Anything like photos of your family versus contact information for a client and so on. Put the personal stuff into a bag or some kind of container which will keep it from being on the floor or piled up on your bed, kitchen table or other places where it will just get in the way and not be very portable. If you can, get family to help sort out these things. Some things, like photos, can be given to them or they can deliver them to the right person for you.

Use a filing system that works for you to sort out the work related clutter. Sort paperwork by date/ month. Have an In and Out box for things you need to do and those which are done and just need to be put away or throw them away if you won’t need them again.

Invest in a bulletin board or magnetic board which you can pin more urgent notes to – this way you can keep track of the important to-do things and they won’t be lost on your desktop. Anything left in the work related pile should be given a place where it can easily and predictably be found or you should not keep it. Avoid keeping odds and ends that you probably won’t use or don’t really need.

Find a container for all your pens, pencils, coloured markers, highlighters, etc. Look at the thrift store for some unique and thrifty storage ideas. Or, get a drawer organizer and keep them stored in a desk drawer, tidily. Do the same with other small accessories like staplers, paperclips, etc.Tidy up cables, wires and such from your computer and other electronics by your desk. Even if they are mostly out of sight they add to the feeling of clutter. There are good ideas for tidying up cables by using twist ties, bread tags or elastic bands.

Everything on your desk that did not really belong there should be put in the right place, the proper room. Make yourself start a new habit of putting all these things (like a hairbrush, lip balm, coffee cups, medicine, etc.) away rather than just putting them down wherever you happen to be using them at the time. Save yourself the extra clutter and you have room on your desk to work with the real things that belong there.

Resources:

  • HELP – My Desk Is Buried Under a Mountain of Paper
  • Top 10 Tips for Getting Organized
  • Homemaking and Housekeeping – Get Yourself Organized

You Don’t Look Like Someone Who’s Famous and Other Reasons I Will Never Feel Like a Somebody

I looked at my place on the AllTop Writing list today. It was a nice spot, close enough to the top to keep my toes from getting chilly and yet not so close that I feel intimidated by myself or stressed out about having to perform.

Performance anxiety, the stress you get when you realize someone is actually watching and expects you to do something worth watching.

I know myself. I know I will never believe in myself enough to give myself credit for what I accomplish. It will never be enough. The crazy critic inside my head keeps my feet firmly planted on the ground. I know any success I have is due to some fluke, something that happened by chance and isn’t likely to be repeated. Like reporting an error on a website, they ask you to tell them how it happened by repeating the steps you took to get there. Like we all keep notes. Well, some of you probably do, I don’t.

Any success I have will be immediately discounted as luck or random chance.

I don’t look like someone who could be famous. I don’t act like someone who could be famous. In a room of famous people I would be asked to serve the cocktails and someone would fire me when I tried to hold too many cocktails on my tray and spilled them all over – smashed glasses and all.

Someone famous is thin, or at least trim and fit looking. I’m not.

Someone famous spends time on their clothes and cosmetics. I’m not even wearing lipstick. I’ve even let myself run out of Blistex so my lips are not silky and soft today.

Someone famous would be making better use of their day. I’ve been sitting here most of the day, researching, writing and publishing.

Someone famous would have been having social chitchats with other famous people. I took a break and played cards with my Mother.

Someone famous has themselves set up in the perfect setting with no clutter and a lot of glamour. I’m surrounded by paper clutter, Ubuntu DVDs I burned and games I will procrastinate with later. There are pens and markers on my desk, getting in the way of my computer mouse. My coffee cup is empty – usually it’s here too. Hairbrush, hair clips, a flower shaped cookie cutter, vitamins, a jingle bell from Christmas, a red ribbon from the new underwear I bought a month ago, hand sanitizer, a Swiss Chalet survey, paperwork to fill out for my volunteering job and assorted other clutter that someone famous would have staff to handle for them.

Someone famous isn’t making their own lunch, or skipping it cause in another hour it will be time to start making dinner anyway.

Someone famous doesn’t have a shelf (more than one shelf) with self-help, creative writing inspiration, freelance writing and web development type of books which they have not actually done more than skim yet.

Someone famous doesn’t get swollen feet from sitting here too long.

Someone famous would only spend an hour (at most!) on writing and then they would be off for their TV interview, lunch with Keanu Reeves and a public appearance for the reporters and adoring crowds.

Someone famous would never feel like I do.

Yet, the odd thing is… some of them do!

The really, really, really odd thing is; there are people who will look at this site and the other sites I write for and think I’m a somebody. (Not after they read this of course. Illusions of my grandeur are shot now. But, you get the idea).

Judging Criteria

HubPages is having a writing contest. But, the judging criteria aren’t all about writing a good post, for readers. They want a crappy SEO title. Not a title that might interest or intrigue readers, no… just something spammy for search engines. This bugs me! Plus, they want people to use their own photos yet HubPages doesn’t want people to retain copyrights to their images. A bit backwards then to suggest people use their own photos. They also like video in posts. I very much hate video posts, or video in post, so that just won’t be happening on any post of mine.

Mainly, I admit, the SEO stuff irks me. It always has. It’s so artificial and phony. I did change my title to something boring and bullshitty, just to give my post a touch more chance. I don’t really have much chance. There is only so much artificial junk I can stand. Besides, the idea was to answer a question posed on the site. So, unless I pretty much ignore the original question and go spinning off on a tangent of my own… I’m doomed to be writing about a topic that has been written about before, frequently.

Don’t knock tangent spinning though. At least that wouldn’t be a boring blah blah blah SEO post.

JUDGING CRITERIA

  • The extent to which the entry accurately answers the Question asked
  • The presence and quality of original photos and video
  • Whether the entry is on a long-tail, niche topic that has not been extensively covered online
  • Whether the entry has a search-friendly title (mirrors common search terms)
  • Excellent writing (proper use of grammar, capitalization)
  • The entry’s uniqueness (not copied or paraphrased from elsewhere online, full of details, examples, names, and figures)
  • Attractive formatting (avoidance of excessive link, eBay, or Amazon capsule clutter, excessive bolding or italics, and all-caps)
  • Judicious use of relevant capsules (original photos [especially your own], video, maps, tables, links, etc.)

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