A couple of months ago, I was interviewed for an article on time management in USA TODAY’s Best Years magazine. Best Years is a newsstand magazine for people over 50. It went on sale on August 22.
I was delighted when the writer emailed me over the weekend that the article was posted to USA Today’s website. If you’re interested in reading it, here’s a link: Make the most of your precious time. In the magazine, the article has a more evocative title: “Got a Minute? Make the most of the time you have by treating it like money.”
If you’re interested in the magazine, you can look for it on the newsstand. Or you can buy it at the link above. Here’s the cover of that particular issue, so you know what you’re looking for:
According to the website description, “USA TODAY’s Best Years magazine has health, fashion, relationships and travel and more for the 50+ crowd.” Sounds interesting!
I originally ran this post in 2016, but I wanted to run it again because just yesterday on our podcast my co-host Shannon Wilkinson and I were talking about setting yourself for success. That’s what this three-year-old blog post is all about! If you’re interested in hearing us talk about that topic, the episode will drop on Thursday, August 15. Go to the Getting to Good Enough website (or wherever you get your podcasts) that day or after to give it a listen.
I’m a morning person. I know that I’m most productive in the morning. Especially first thing in the morning. My brain is turned on and I can be pretty focused when everyone else in the house is asleep. (And by everyone else, I mean my husband and dog.)
I’ve learned that if I want to get something done I should do it during this precious early-morning time. For me, this is especially true of blogging. It’s easier for me to blog first thing in the morning than later in the day. I have trouble sitting down and focusing on blogging in the afternoon or evening. So I know that if I want to blog consistently, I am best off doing it in the morning.
Recently, I’ve turned that early-morning focus to doing genealogy research. (I blogged about this very thing on Organize Your Family History recently.) I had not been taking the time to do genealogy research, which was really disappointing me. Now that I’m doing it first thing, I’m really enjoying it and making progress. Of course that makes blogging the second thing I do in the morning, but that’s working out too.
I started to think about the things I can do to make it easier for me to do important things first thing, even on days where I have early client appointments. I’d prefer not to have to get up earlier, so I try to do routine things the night before instead of taking precious morning-brain time in the morning. These things include:
Just doing these easy things the afternoon or evening before can allow me to harness the power of my early-morning brain. If you’re a morning person and you have something you’re having trouble getting done, you might give it a try.
If you’re an evening person—which is okay too, of course—you might try switching this up for your schedule. If you know your peak time, work around that. If you’re on your game at 9 pm try to make sure the mindless before-bed stuff is done so that you can really get into your flow at 9 and nothing gets in your way.
Is there something you’ve been wanting to accomplish regularly that keeps going undone? Try doing it before everything else.
As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, I’ve been organizing and scanning my photos from the 80s and 90s, primarily. The project was prompted by the discovery of a cache of photos in a closet and given a little urgency by the offer of a loan of an Epson FastFoto FF-680W photo scanner in exchange for a review.
I’ve now scanned hundreds of photos with this handy little scanner. It’s a sheet-fed scanner (like a fax machine), so it handles prints only. The photos I was scanning were relatively new and were not fragile, so I had no hesitation to put them in the sheet feeder. Based on my experience, though, I think I’d be comfortable putting old photos in the sheet feeder, as long as they weren’t crumbly or torn. The scanner does come with a carrier sheet for more delicate photos, though I didn’t try it.
The scanner has software that allows for easy organization of the digital photos, assuming you’ve already taken the time to organize the prints. As I explained in my previous post, I went through my photos and grouped them into categories that made sense to me. The software is set up so that you can assign a year (or a decade), a month (or a season), and a description to each batch. The description becomes the folder name and the year, month and description, followed by a number become the file names for each photo in the batch, which are numbered sequentially.
Here’s a photo of the screen where you make those selections:
It’s quite simple. If you finish a batch and later find photos that belong in that folder, it’s easy to just make the same selections and they’ll be added to the folder.
Once I got past the idea that I needed to name every photo (again, see my previous blog post), the process went quickly. The scanner is well named. It’s really fast!
Here’s a 20-second video I took of the scanning, start to finish, of a batch of 32 pictures. It’s really that easy and fast. I scanned at 300 dpi (the fastest setting) but I could have scanned at 600 or even 1200 dpi in JPEG or TIFF formats. I was impressed with the number of options available.
I was scanning old snapshots at 300 dpi, so it’s a bit hard to evaluate the quality of the scanned photos. I did use the auto enhancement setting so that I would get a duplicate, enhanced version of any photos that started out sub-standard. These photos were color corrected and red eye was eliminated. Pretty cool.
I choose to store my photos on my hard drive, but the software allows you to upload your photos to Dropbox or Google drive with a click. There’s also a sharing button for easy sharing via Facebook or email. I chose to store the folders in my folder structure on my Mac, but there is an option for saving it to the Photos app.
At $529, this isn’t a scanner for the casual or infrequent user. But if you have a lot of photos to scan, it might be something to consider. It’s fast, easy to use and virtually trouble free.
The Epson FastFoto scanner made a project I’d been putting off really easy. I had no trouble organizing my prints—I broke that project into little pieces and really enjoyed looking at a the photos—but I had really dragged my feet doing the scanning. That’s a shame, because it turned out to be a breeze!
Last February, I cleaned out a closet in my home and found a box of photos from my pre-digital-camera life that I had completely forgotten about. Right around that time, I heard from a rep from Epson offering me a loan of an Epson FastFoto photo scanner so I could try it out and blog about it. (Later this week, I’ll post that review.)
I dug into that box of photos and started sorting. I threw out the bad ones and duplicates and I put the keepers into rough categories, with the intention of scanning them with the Epson photo printer. (That’s one of the keepers, a photo of my parents the day after our wedding, at the top of this post.)
I got started scanning but found the process of renaming each photo to be really tedious. With my digital genealogy files (which are primarily documents, not photographs), I scrupulously rename every file to reflect its contents. That was my mindset when I started scanning. I thought that each photo had to be similarly named so I could find it easily on my hard drive.
But then I realized I’d skipped an important step. I needed to get in touch with why I’m organizing and scanning the photos. Only then would I know to what level I needed to name and organize the digital photos.
There are many possible reasons for taking on a photo organizing and scanning project. They include:
For me, once I thought about it, I realized that I wanted to scan the photos so I wouldn’t lose them. And so I’d be able to share them. But I’m not interested in albums at this point or any big sharing of photos.
I realized I would be satisfied to be able to look in a folder of photos and scan through them to find the one I wanted. I did not need individual descriptive file names.
That was a game changer. It meant that I just needed to create broad categories of photos. The FastFoto software makes it easy to create and scan into folders for those categories. And then the individual photos are numbered sequentially with the folder name in the file name. (I should mention that I have a terabyte hard drive and that I back it up to the cloud and to an external hard drive daily.)
Suddenly, this project turned from something I’d been putting off for months (even though I needed to return the printer) into something I can do while watching Netflix. I scanned hundred of photos painlessly because I’d already sorted them into categories.
It became so easy that I went on a treasure hunt around the house for more caches of photos. I found a photo box, already organized, that I had created almost 25 years ago. They contained photos from travel in the early years of our marriage, organized by destination. I took a glance at the pictures inside and realized that I had no desire to digitize them. As a collection, they’re nice and my husband and I might enjoy looking at them. But they’re already organized and accessible and no one besides us would care about them.
Giving myself permission not to scan these photos felt good. I affixed a Post-it® Note to the top of the photo box indicating that the photos have been digitized in case I ever want to toss them.
So what did I do with the printed versions of the photos I digitized? I decided to keep them. I have a big house with lots of storage space and I didn’t see the need to throw them away. But they’re in category order, in archival boxes and if I ever actually need to access any, I’ll be able to. Chances are very good, though, that if I did want to look at a photo, I’d go to my hard drive, not these boxes. When I move in the future, I’ll take another look and decide whether to toss them then. If I were downsizing, I’d be comfortable tossing them since I have digital versions.
This what’s worked for me. Your mileage may vary. The big lesson here, to me, is to get in touch with why you’re taking on a photo organizing project and organize accordingly. Make it as easy as possible, so it’ll actually get done. This was one instance where good enough was definitely good enough!
P.S. On my treasure hunt I also a box of unsorted miscellaneous photos. It’s given me pause. But I have a methodology now and a loaned scanner that I need to return. So I plan, within a week, to systematically sort, toss, categorize into broad categories (paying attention to the categories I’ve already created) and scan these photos. I will take pictures of the process as I do it and create another, more granular, how-to post.
I’m so happy that my blog was included on this list of Top 100 Organizing Blogs and Websites to Follow in 2019, put out by Feedspot. (It clocks in at #46.) If you’re reading this blog, you probably enjoy reading organizing blogs. So you’re almost certain to enjoy perusing this list!
Such a list can be a rabbit hole, though. I encourage you to set a timer for the amount of time you can spare before clicking on the link. Use the timer to prevent you from losing all track of time as you explore the terrific blogs on the list.
I hope there will be some new-to-you blogs on the list that will prove life enhancing!
Many of my friends’ and colleagues’ blogs are included. I’m delighted to be in such good company.
Last month, I blogged about Nine ways I use Trello. I still absolutely love Trello and use it daily. It seems like I’m always finding new ways to use it. (Most recent addition: a board to keep track of where I needed to change my head shot, since I had new pictures taken.)
It became even easier to use when my friend (and Getting to Good Enough cohost) Shannon Wilkinson clued me into the Send to Trello bookmark shortcut for Safari. I use Safari for most of my browsing and was happy to learn that with this little tool any website I’m visiting can be turned into a Trello card and placed on a board.
The two places I’m using the most are my Kindle library (I can now effortlessly place a photo of the cover of a book on its card!) and my board of suggested organizing products to show clients. I know there are going to be many other applications as well.
To install the bookmark, just click on the Add Card page on the Trello website. If you’re not already showing your Favorites Bar at the top of your browser screen (under the URL box), click “Show Favorites Bar” under View. Then drag the “Send to Trello” link from the Add Card page to your Favorites Bar. It’s that easy.
The next time you’re browsing in Safari and see something you want to save, just click on the Send to Trello bookmark and you’ll be asked what board to save it to. One more click and you’ve created a Trello card from that site.
It’s a game changer!
When I wrote this post five years ago, I was a little bold in declaring that I’d solved a problem once and for all. But you know what? It’s true. I now enter the info of anyone I want to keep track into my Contacts database and toss the card. I ended up getting rid of the little file box and the very few cards that I keep I put in a little container on a shelf in my office supply closet. Simple and sustainable!
Keeping track of business cards is a challenge for me, and, I’ve observed, for many of my clients. I’ve been accumulating them for awhile in a business-card file box (sorted into rough categories) and then when I outgrew the box, the whole bunch went into in a larger bin that sat on a shelf in my office closet.
I blogged about this in May of last year and even went so far as to create an action plan to deal with the cards. But I never followed through on it.
A winter storm blew through St. Louis on Sunday, putting on hold my plans for going out. So I decided it was time to deal with those darn business cards.
Here’s how they looked when I moved them to my desk to deal with them. My plan was to organize them into a larger See Jane Work business-card file box I’d purchased some time back.
There was no way all these cards would fit in this box.
Before getting started, I thought about why I hang on to business cards. I realized that it’s because I want to be a great resource for my clients. And I’m afraid that I won’t remember the names on the cards I’d collected if I put them in my phone. So my thought was that I would organize the cards into categories for easy access if I have a client who needs a name.
That seemed reasonable until I started thinking about the fact that I like to be able to give my clients the resource immediately, not wait until I get home (and risk forgetting to do it). I’m not going to carry a business-card file box around with me (nor would I if I had a business card book or any other more portable way to carry around business cards.). What I do carry around with me to all client appointments is my phone.
So I decided to use my phone like I would use the file box: I’d enter the contact info by category. But first, I would narrow the cards down to as few as possible, to make the job easier.
I went through the accumulated business cards, being very selective about what I kept. I created categories for the ones I wanted to keep and filed them in the smaller business-card file box.
I threw away a big pile of cards.
My discard pile was huge!
The next step was to go through the keepers and make sure the ones I really want to refer to clients are in the contacts list on my computer and phone, filed into groups for easy access. I created groups that match the categories in my physical business-card file.
Surprisingly, it didn’t take that long to enter the names and contact info. Less than an hour. I tried to see if I could use my Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M scanner to take of that task for me, but the business-processing card software that came with the scanner was out of date and I didn’t want to go down the rabbit hole of updating things. So I just entered the names that weren’t already in my computer.
After I was finished with that task, I had a big decision to make: should I keep the physical cards or toss them all? Part of me wanted to keep them, since I had a place to store them. But reason prevailed and I decided to let go of all those resource cards. I kept a few of the cards related to me personally, but tossed a giant pile of cards. Knowing that they’re in my database, backed up regularly, gave me the courage to do that.
And I’m here to tell you it felt good!!
Now, when I pick up a business card, I’ll decide then and there whether to put it in my database. And then I’ll take the 60 seconds or so necessary to add it. And I’ll toss it.
I did keep a few categories of cards. I kept those of some friends, just because they make me feel good when I look at them. I kept a category of cards related to professionals in my home town, who might be of help if problems come up with my aging family. And I kept a category of genealogy-related cards (mostly picked up at the RootsTech conference I attended last month.
This is all the the cards that were left when I finished:
Now my box has more index cards than business cards.
Hooray! It’s a thrill to come up with a solution that works for me for a problem I’ve been grappling with for awhile.