Hey, “Elephants” like to hang out on campus, too! (Organizing tips for Student Entrepreneurs)

Yes, apparently, “elephants” don’t discriminate!  No matter what shape, form or fashion in the corporate or business world, you can become a casualty of the “clutter giant”.  Even YOU, student entrepreneurs! Getting organized is the only “elephant repellent”… that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  So these are just a few simple organizing tips to help you balance life as a ‘trep and as a college student.

  • Purge books that you no longer need.  There are a number of ways that your books can contribute to a lot of good.  Whether it’s helping other students to save money by selling your books to a buyback program or local sites like Craigslist, or donating to local libraries or thrift stores, or holding a book swap party at your place.  Who doesn’t like a party?!. throw some much-needed textbooks in the mix and you’re the campus rock star.)
  • Plan ahead… create a schedule and stick to it.  Take care of things while you have the time.  As a matter of fact, take care of things ahead of time instead of putting them off.  It can absolutely create a stress-filled domino effect to the rest of your day and possibly the week.  Think about it… would you rather be the one who’s, literally, handling your business more focused, confident, and excited about the day ahead?  Or would you rather be the one who’s always on edge, playing catch-up all week between servicing customers and chasing the clock between classes?  Also, if you have a business that you operate on a seasonal basis, like during winter or summer breaks, use the time when you’re not operating your business to prepare for business for the next season. Save money, focus on marketing to acquire new customers/clients, make any modifications to your schedule to reflect changes for that upcoming season, etc.  Having a schedule helps you to develop discipline and the motivation to obtain your goals, both in business and while in school.
  • Maintain control of the “elephant” sitting on your desk… paper clutter.  This is bigger than a paper trail, people… it’s a peanut trail!  Let’s just be honest… you will always have some sort of paperwork waiting for you on your desk whether it’s for business or school.  So I want to be as realistic as possible when it comes to this issue.  The problem is not having a lot of paper, it’s how you are managing it.  The key is control.  Create a paper system.  Start by determining what documents you TRULY DO NEED, seriously…because those three-year-old business lunch receipts and even older class registration forms are not getting it.  As you go through your paperwork, break out your label maker and sort them by general category, like ‘Business’ or ‘School’.  Then create sub-categories within each of your general categories.  Like for ‘Business’, you may want to create sub-categories such as ‘Receipts’, or ‘Business Forms’, etc.  For ‘School’, you might consider a ‘Financial’ sub-category or create sub-categories by classes – hey, it’s a great temporary option for that never-ending syllabus collection every semester.  It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as it’s relevant and convenient for you… unless, of course, you are a part of a team of people (like employees or business partners) then, yes, you have to be a little more considerate.  Check out a previous post I did on this very scenario on sharing a space.  Include your team in the decisions regarding your newly organized paper system.  Once, you’ve given every sheet or document a category home, guess what?  You’re done!  Then all there’s left to do is to file them away and be disciplined in taking ten little minutes, each day, to putting things back where they belong after you’re done with them.  In other words, don’t wake up the next morning to an “elephant massacre” all over your work area.  It is NOT pretty, as I’m sure you already know.
  • Got off-site storage?  Treat it as if you live there.  If you are a student entrepreneur who acquires a business inventory and you’re short on storage because you live in on-campus housing or you share an apartment, then this tip is for you.  However, be sure to keep your storage unit very organized, especially in cases where you store business inventory and personal items together.  Create sections based on what you have and purchase sturdy, damage-free products to store your items in.  You want to protect your business investment and your personal items.  Label everything!  Organize this space as if you were living in it.  You need to be able to find what you need when you need it; so make it as simple as “go in, grab it, and get out.”  No more shuffling through a bunch of “stuff”.  Who needs that?!

Owning a business entails having control and that includes having control over your living, work, and storage spaces.  Otherwise, you just end up with a big, fat problem on your hands.

That “elephant”… I tell you…

– Sy

How can a mirror, a picture frame and a game board help you organize your work area this summer? (Organizing tips for business professionals and entrepreneurs)

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In the 80s, I use to like a show on the CBS network called, MacGyver (… for those of us who remember it).  Although it was fictional, I enjoyed how the main character, Angus MacGyver, would just get common objects around him and create something totally different but functional.  I was a kid but even I knew that it was a genius concept and super cool at that.  So how does the concept of a show from over twenty years ago relate to getting organized?  Well, I’m going to share a few quick tips on how you can “MacGyver” or repurpose a mirror, a picture frame and a game board to help you organize your work area, whether it’s your office at work or at home.

Need something to post friendly reminders to yourself and prevent your desk from becoming a cluttered eye-sore?  How about creating a memo board… out of a mirror.  Why not take it a step further… a magnetic memo board!  Just grab a framed mirror that you really like (or take a short trip to your local thrift store), give it a little TLC by may be adding a coat of paint, swap out the glass with a metal sheet from your local home improvement store, cover it with some fabric, add a few magnets, and there you have it!.. you’ve got yourself a handy (and fancy, I might add) way to temporarily store those reminder notes, networking cards, or shopping lists.  It helps you to keep your desk cleared of the thousands of tiny paper-items we consume on a regular basis and, if you’re like myself, your memo board can be customized to fit the décor in your work area.  Check out a previous post I did on how I used this same concept to create a vision board.

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Need a place to discreetly store away and maintain your mobile devices?  What if I told you all it takes is a dual, 8×10 picture frame and a drill? Now, you have a convenient and clever charging station.  Just remove a couple of the templates and the glass from the inside of the frame, carefully drill a hole in the side of the frame where you want to thread your device cords through, and WHAA LAA!  Wanna personalize it even more?  Take one of the templates and glass that was removed from the frame and place it on the top so that you can add your favorite photo.  Be sure to seal the glass down and the edges where the frame slides out in order to secure anything from falling out.

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An organized desk usually consists of an area to neatly store your commonly used office supplies, some good lighting, a sorting tray for temporarily storing documents, and an area for your electronic devices or writing.  So keep this space light.  Most of that work surface on your desk is for writing or using your electronics.  How about using a marble game board and repurposing it into a tablet, keyboard, or book prop for your desk?  This is a great option if you don’t have a tablet cover that enables you to angle your device to reduce screen glare, or if you have a desktop keyboard that has a broken prop-up leg, or if you’re reading and would like to prop your book up slightly from the flat position on your desk.  Just open the marble board, placing the actual playing side face-down on the table or surface.  Using batting and fabric material, wrap it around the board and secure it with a hot glue gun.  Allow it to dry and in that little time you have a new prop board for your desk.  When you’re done with it, you can close the board and store it away, increasing your work surface.

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BAAAMM!.. you’ve been MACGYVER’ED!!!  Enjoy these quick repurposing tricks to help you get your workstation organized this summer.  Remember to subscribe to this blog for many more tips on how you can evict the elephant in your room.  C’mon back!  We’d love to hear from you.

Until the next post…

– Sy

Happy 4th from TheElephantInMyRoom.net!.. and 10 Awesome Travel tips and tricks whether it’s business or pleasure!

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Well, hello there, stranger!  I know… but with good reason.  I encourage anyone, especially business professionals/entrepreneurs, to always schedule some much needed down time whether alone or with loved ones.  It is so refreshing and a great way to come back fired up and ready to go.  It is so great.  On that note, it made me think about this coming 4th of July weekend and the vacation season that is upon us.  So I’ve found 10 awesomely helpful tips and tricks to help you rest easier and enjoy your travels whether it’s for business or pleasure.  So let’s jump right in.

  1. As you are planning your trip, be sure to create a handy check-off list of the items you are bringing.  All too many times we have the frustrating experience of forgetting something at the hotel or in a rental car.  Avoid it by taking a little time to create or print out an inventory list that you can tuck away in your luggage.  So when you are preparing to return home, you can check off every item you brought with you to assure you it leaves along with you.  Boom.  Done.
  2. Uh, oh! Let’s say you did leave something… like your cell phone charger.  You check into your hotel room just to find out you forgot your charger at home.  Well, here’s a friendly tip:  Hotels are a notorious place where people leave things, especially phone chargers.  Check with the hotel staff to inquire about an unclaimed phone charger that you could put to good use.
  3. Now, one of my favorite topics, storage.  Need a safer, more sanitary way to store your razor blades during travel?  Here’s a simple and free way to do it with a common item you already have… use a binder clip.  Yes, place a binder clip over your shaving blade.
  4. Jewelry is another commonly left item during travel.  So hold on to your precious goods a little longer by storing them in small storage containers (like the Really Useful Box containers that I mentioned in a previous post) or in a sock tucked away in your luggage, especially one of those lone socks when you just can’t find the other.
  5. Place tissue paper in between the items of clothing in your luggage to reduce wrinkles or place dryer sheets in your luggage for that fresh-out-of-the-dryer scent.
  6. Have a broken suitcase zipper?  Loop one of those souvenir key chains from a previous trip through the slider and there you have it!  As good as done… even better.
  7. So you’re out-and-about at a theme-park with your family or at the gym so you want to pack light… especially cash.  Unfortunately, some things are not accessible with a swipe and it’s equally unfortunate that theft is real.  But you have to carry some form of cash.  A couple of things to consider: a.) carry small amounts of cash at a time or what you absolutely need and b.) invest in a sports bra or undershirt with built-in pockets (ladies… this option beats mom’s old secret bra stash… yeah.)
  8. So you’re sitting at the airport, waiting on your flight, and need access to Wi-Fi? How about free Wi-Fi? Well, in the words of a certain tech company, “There’s an app for that…”.  There’s actually a pretty good app for that from what we hear in JiWire’s free Wi-Fi finder for smartphone users.  It has the ability to locate free networks worldwide.
  9. Speaking of airport apps, how about some travel apps.  Look into apps like TripIt or FlightTrack for flight information and more, as well as, a friendly app for relatives or business partners (especially those who want to avoid the “merry-go-round” trip around the airport to pick you up) called Just Landed.
  10. Finally, before you head out to your flight, always check the current and expected weather conditions for your destinations.  Summer is known to whip up some severe weather conditions and it would save you the trouble to plan ahead.  So it’s worth checking into some weather tracking apps like The Weather Channel or Accuweather.  They are free and offer some great features such as health risk assessments, storm maps, and forecast breakdowns by the hour.

I hope these tips were helpful and if you have some tips that you’d like to share with us, feel free to post them below in the comments.  Enjoy this weekend, everyone, and get ready for new posts to hit your inbox soon.

– Sy

Home-based Business Organizing Tip #7: Recycling (How is it supposed to help me feel better about purging my things?..)

I was working with a client not too long ago and as we were going through his things, he had a hard time parting with some of the things that he clearly did not have a use for anymore.  After sharing with him some ideas of what he could do with them and the impact it could make, he began to see the idea of purging differently and was able to let go.  You see, sometimes we have a hard time with the idea that we just have to let some things go that we may not want to, no matter how much simpler it would make our lives.  We feel like there could be a “possibility” that we would need them at some point or we have some type of emotional attachment to them.  In turn, the process of purging has somewhat adopted a bad rep.  So instead of looking at it as if you are losing something, look at it for what it really is… a gain.  There’s many options besides throwing things in the trash.  But let’s face it, if you’ve been holding on to things that can realistically be replaced then it’s just time to give it up.  On the other hand, some of your items can benefit another person who could really use it as a donation.  Then there’s some items that can make an even bigger impact through recycling.  There’s many things that we use, whether it’s related to business or in our homes, that can be recycled… some of which we didn’t know could be recycled.  So in today’s tip, I’m providing a list of some of the common things I’ve found we as entrepreneurs should recycle… and even some things we should not.

Home-based Business Organizing Tip #7: Recycling

Paper (recycle)*

  • That morning paper (for those of us who still get them)
  • The continuous flow of computer, typing (for those of us who still do it), and writing paper
  • Mail fliers
  • Those old subscription magazines/catalogues
  • Still brown-bagging those lunches?  Yep, those bags should be recycled also.
  • Corrugated boxes
  • Paperboard boxes (the ones without the plastic windows)

*If you can not shred the paper items, place them in brown paper bags.  Be sure to remove staples or paper clips.  Flatten any boxes.

Paper (unrecyclable… toss it.)

  • Wrapping/tissue paper
  • Telephone books (yep, we still get those)
  • Paperboard boxes with the plastic windows

Metal (recycle)*

  • Aerosol cans
  • Aluminum foil/cans
  • Alkaline, rechargeable, watch and camera batteries

*Rinse the items clean and remove labels.  Make sure cans are completely empty and remove any caps.  Place batteries in a re-sealable bag.

Metal (unrecyclable… toss it.)

  • Paint cans
  • Clothes hangers
  • House siding, window frames and doors

Glass (recycle)*

  • Clear glass bottles/jars

*Discard the lids and rinse the items clean.  Remove the metal rings, plastic or foam labels (with the exception of paper labels)

Glass (unrecyclable… toss it.)

  • Dishes/ceramics
  • Light bulbs
  • Broken windows
  • Mirrors

Plastic (recycle)*

  • #1-7 containers (check for the symbol)
  • #2 and #4 grocery bags (check for the symbol)
  • Plastic items include such items as: milk jugs, water bottles, detergent, shampoo bottles, butter tubs, plastic yogurt cups, microwave food trays, plant flats, and flower pots

*Discard caps and rinse the items clean of food and drink residue.  Be sure that the plastic bags are dry and free of paper/receipts.

Plastic (unrecyclable… toss it.)

  • Bottles that can hazardous materials
  • Styrofoam cups, plants, peanuts, packaging, etc.
  • Garbage bags
  • Food storage bags
  • Dry cleaning bags/plastic film

So now you can feel better about parting with your items because of your contribution to preserving our resources.  You can smile now.

I hope this tip helped to motivate you to reconsider some of the things that you’ve been holding on to.  Now share it with others or feel free to share some of your recycling tips below.

Sy

Home-based Moving/Relocation series (Pt.5): To Shred or not to Shred…THAT is the question! (Paper Clutter)

To finally cap off this series of tips on moving/relocation, I’ve decided to touch on a common problem we all have… paper clutter.  I know what you’re saying… “Yeah, I know I need to do something about all of this paper but how do I know if I get rid of it that one day I may need it for something… how do I know what I’m supposed to get rid of?”  Well let’s put an end to that right nowSmile.  Here’s a list of the most common things that not only you should part from (worry-free) but they should be shredded in order to prevent clutter and incidences of identity theft – a major issue that we face today when it comes to our private information.

Papers to Shred

  • Any documents containing you, your family, or business information such as social security numbers, names, birth dates, etc.
  • Pins/password information
  • Purchase receipts/invoices, especially those with credit/banking information on them (unless required for tax purposes then consult your accountant/attorney first)
  • Credit cards or bank cards that are expired or no longer in use (yes, even if the account is closed, shred it!)
  • Credit/bank account statements or any financial records no longer needed (such as loan/credit applications)
  • Tax documents that are seven years or older (consult your accountant/attorney… you may be able to dispose of them a little sooner.)
  • Old business documents no longer needed
  • Old customer/client forms that are no longer needed (you want to go the extra mile to protect them as well)
  • ATM receipts no longer needed (unless required for tax purposes then consult your accountant/attorney first)
  • Checks that are voided or no longer in use (again, even if the account is closed, shred it!)
  • Personal/business bills that are already paid or no longer needed (including medical bills)
  • Insurance documents no longer needed
  • Personal/business legal documentation no longer needed
  • Expired identification (such as an old state i.d., driver’s license, employee i.d., passport, etc.)

Once you’ve freed yourself of these things then you’ll find that there’s a lot less to fuss over on a daily basis.  Then take a little time out of your schedule to swap out any new documents like bills or business-related forms that come in so that you don’t have to be overwhelmed with a pile or more all over again.  Keep those desk trays as light as possible.  Once you see a pile begin to form, that is your cue to jump in and determine if you need to keep those papers and if you do put them where they belong.  Those trays are TEMPORARY storage, guys.

Well I hope this series was helpful to you all.  Remember, feel free to comment below and share these tips so that we can empower other entrepreneurs to get organized and stay organized.

– Sy

Friday’s Inspired Space (Home-based Business Organizing)

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Guys, today I am highlighting a space that inspired me this week from a fellow blogger over at TheIdeaRoom.net.  Amy Huntley, the owner and super-mom of five, unveiled her newly organized and decorated home office/craft space and I must say the pics that I’m sharing does it no justice.  When you have a moment definitely head on over to her blog and check out the rest of her gorgeous pics and also enjoy her many other creative projects.  She converted a room that was originally in need of some serious TLC into an amazing workspace for herself.  It took her some time but she is completely happy with how it all turned out (as she should have).

Organizing your home-based business space does not have to be an overnight success, just like your business may not be.  It’s about taking the time to sit down, evaluate what your needs are, and actually execute everything that needs to be done.  Tackle one area at a time and then when it’s all done, let it be motivation to not be put back into the same overwhelming situation again.  Realize that no one is perfect and that you may have tiny encounters with stacks of paper, inventory products, or the occasional stuffed animal that your two-year-old insists on leaving on the floor… but as long as you take a little time every day or at least a few times a week to put everything where it needs to be then you’re goldenSmile

Getting your home business space organized and keeping it that way can take your business a loooong way.  It never hurt anyone.

Enjoy the weekend, guys!  Really enjoy it… Lord willing, the business can stand to do without you until Monday.  Weekends are made for rest.

– Sy

Home-based Business Moving/Relocation series (Pt.4): Cord Organization…don’t get it twisted. They can be a pain.

How many times have we run across the ever-so frustrating act of trying to pack for a move, or just to travel, and encounter the daunting task of unplugging, detangling, and wrapping cords from a dozen different devices/machines?  Oh, no… that’s just the beginning!  Then when it’s time to unpack them we have to remember what they belonged to?.. Is the location of the cord (once it’s hooked up) within reach of an outlet?.. Are there too many cords over here?… Where’s that cord?!  Uuuuggghhh!

Yeees!  We know it all too well.  It’s enough to drive you crazy!  This is how chaotic and crafty that elephant can be when you let it take control.  But there is good news… there are ways of eliminating, even avoiding, that intertwining mess no matter what your particular situation.

May be it’s not an issue of the number of cords but organizing or storing them in a way that they don’t become a major eye-sore.  Although I just moved, I’ve found that I have to get a little creative with the cords around my work area.

I finally got the room organized the way I wanted, everything in its perfect place but now I have this unsightly view near my desk and it’s driving me CRAZY!  So instead of just hiding it behind my shredder (because even though it’s all somewhat hidden, it still bothers me with a passion), I’ve decided to embrace the challenge of finding the perfect solution to clear it up.

“SO… I’LL SEE YOUR CORD CLUTTER, “ELEPHANT”, AND RAISE YOU A COUPLE MORE CORDS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF MY DESK!.. On to one of my favorite things… shopping!

More on what I’ve done to my cord clutter on another post… in the meantime, here’s some tips on how you can escape the web of cords in your home workspace during a move:

  • First thing’s first, when removing your cords from your devices/machines, be sure to label each one according to what they belong to.  You can use a label maker or special tag to do this.  There are a number of different products out there that you can use to label cords.  Find the one that works best for you.
  • If you have a drawer full of extra cords, wrap them individually with something such as a rubber band and label them as well.  So the next time you need a spare cord, you’ll know what they belong to without having to shuffle through a bunch of cords to find what you need.  TAKE IT UP A NOTCH: if you have a number of cords that need to be stored away, create an organized drawer system specifically for them where you can label the front of the drawers according to the type of devices/machines.  You’d still be labeling the cords as well but by labeling the drawers, in addition, you can get to what you specifically need even quicker.  This is also a big help to business owners who have a shared space with a business partner or team members/employees.  You have to think of everyone who works in that same space.
  • When packing your cords, try to store your cords in the same box/bin as their devices/machines.  If you have a number of extra cords, pack all like cords together.  So if you have more than a couple of the same type of laptop cords, label them and put them all in the same box/bin.  By taking this approach, when you unpack, it will just be a matter of storing them away.
  • Once you’ve moved into or arrived at your final destination, store your cords in the room where they will be used.  Trust me, it’s no fun trying to remember where you put a cord when you’re short on time or battery power.
  • Inspect all your cords to be sure that they are in good condition.  If you notice signs of wear-and-tear, such as exposed wires, consider the cord dangerous then discard and replace it.  SIDE NOTE: Cords such as USB cables can be a headache after a while of continued use.  If you’ve noticed that your devices are not charging as they should from the connection of your laptop or computer, check the drive that your USB cable is connected to.  The cable could in fact be the problem.  You can either try another drive on your laptop or computer or you may have to just replace the USB cable.
  • Once you get situated, Invest into some handy cord organizers to help you keep those cords easily accessible and neat behind or beside your work area.

I hope these tips have been helpful to you.  Feel free to share any ideas you’d like to add below in the comments and, hey, help some other home-based business owners, too, by sharing these posts with them also.

– Sy