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Project Zone for the Home Office

As I continue my journey to clutter free, I want to share with you how I have organized my home office. I started with my post on Ideas for Organizing Workflow in a Home Office where I shared about the different zones a home office should have {regardless of size}. Now let's take a closer look into the Project Zone. The project zone is the meat and potatoes of the home office. I will share how to maximize productivity and order by using some simple everyday office supplies.

What is the Project Zone?

Just as the name suggests, the project zone is where all your fun and necessary projects live and breathe {and not all spread out on the desk}. The project zone is what brings you to the home office in the first place, it is the work that needs to be done.

What houses a Project Zone?

What I love about office supplies is that they are so versatile. The same organizer can be used for many different purposes depending on your style and design. The size of your home office will determine what will house your project zone.

For a smaller office, desk space is a premium so using a wall file or binders can be a great way to keep your projects together and off of the desk when not in use.

For a medium sized office, stacking trays or tiered sorters paired with file folders work well and keep everything visible yet orderly.

For a larger office, an entire shelf or armoire can open up to reveal a beautiful project zone with any combination of organizers. The hardcore crafters have this down pat.
To bring it down to earth for the rest of us, here is what houses my project zone, stacking trays and binders. Clean, simple, inexpensive, and best of all, clutter free.

What does a Project Zone consist of?

Project zones will vary from home to home, so I will share how I use my project zone and hopefully get your wheels turning on how you can organize your own. For my project zone, I have long term projects that live in stacking trays and on going projects that live in binders.

My long term projects are made up of new projects that need to be organized, and unfinished projects that are in progress and set aside to work on later. I love that the stacking trays provide lots of room to pile each piece of my project, yet at the same time keeps multiple projects separated.

My ongoing projects consist mostly of my planning binders like my household binder and blog planner to name a few. I love that they are all together happily waiting for me to pull one out and play {or work, how ever you want to see it}.

Why does a Project Zone work?

I love having a project zone in my home office because...

  • It keeps my desk clutter free. Instead of having stacks and stacks of paper spread out on the desk, I can separate projects into stacking trays. 
  • It will help avoid distraction. Sometimes multi-tasking can be counter productive, as in planning and brainstorming, so tasks that require my full concentration get just that while the others wait their turn in their happy home.
  • Even though distractions happen, putting away projects in their happy place for a later time puts my heart and mind at ease allowing me to tend to my family when duty calls; then I can pick up right where I left off.
  • Look how pretty things are when they are stacked and grouped together!

Most people have a project zone in their home office even if they don't realize it. Check out yours today and ask yourself these questions: Where do I put the work that needs to be done? Is is spread out throughout the office or is it grouped together? Is there a spot to combine all my projects into one or two designated spaces? By asking those questions, it will get you thinking about organization from the inside out and make lasting and positive change in your home office life. Who knows, you might even want to work in there from now on! Gift!

Did this get you thinking about your home office? What corrections can you make that will impact yours for the better? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

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How to Make a DIY Picture Book Using PicMonkey

I am the youngest in my family, and my brothers are 16, 18 and 20 years older than I am. Yup, that's right, I was a surprise! Growing up I was more like the oldest child of each of my brothers than a younger sister, so when my son was born {the 9th grandchild on my side}, I wanted him to be able to recognize each member of our family. Not only that, but I also wanted him to recognize the extended family and friends that we see on occasion so that he's feels comfortable with the faces that he sees and doesn't have to hide behind my leg each time we go to a gathering. This is my easy peasy techy fab DIY Picture Book using PicMonkey.

Supplies Needed

  • Simple Photo book
  • Photos of family and friends
  • Access to PicMonkey.com
  • Access to upload and print photos or use home printer

Plan it Out

Like all successful projects, you have to go in with a plan. Start with your kids' perspective in mind. This is their book to get to know the family and friends around them. Begin with your nuclear family, then the paternal and maternal side including grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.

From there think about extended family such as godparents, close family friends and the like. Anyone you would send a wedding invitation or Christmas card to should be in your book {as long as there's room}.

Keep in mind the number of pages in the book you choose. The book we use was given to us as a baby shower gift and so I had lots of pages to fill. Think of it like a story and curate the photos in a specific order.

Here's how I did mine to give you some inspiration:

  • Our family {family photo}
    • Daddy {individual photo}
    • Mommy
    • Mateo
  • Daddy's Family {family photo}
    • Grandpa {individual photo}
    • Grandma
    • Uncle 
    • Auntie
    • Great-Grandma
  • Mommy's Family
    • Papa
    • Mama
    • Uncle #1 & family
      • Uncle
      • Auntie
      • Cousin
    • Continue to Uncle/Aunt #2, 3, and so on
  • Our Extended family {title page}
    • Godparent #1 & family
      • Godfather
      • Godmother
      • Godsibling
    • Continue to Godparent #2, 3, and so on
    • Extended family {family photo}
  • Our friends {title page}
    • Friend #1
    • Continue to Friend #2, 3 and so on
  • Our family far away

PicMonkey Tutorial

Now that the planning is set and you've filled your book to the brim with your loved ones, it's time to make the magic happen! Go to PicMonkey and begin to play all the fun features. Read my post on PicMonkey to see all the fun you can have with it.

Follow these steps to create your page titles:

  1. Go to PicMonkey.com and click Create a Collage
  2. Save the blank collage {this will be your starting point to a template}
  3. After saving, click the x in the top right hand corner to take you back to the home page
  4. Click Edit a Photo and select the blank collage image you just saved
  5. Crop the image to 4x6 {or whatever size your photo book happens to be}
  6. Click Frames to select a page frame and create a template
    • When you are happy with a template, save a blank one for future pages
  7. Create title pages and name captions for each photo page, then save each page to your computer.
  8. Upload and print each page using your preferred website or print on home printer
  9. Arrange all the photos and captions in your book, then read it to your kids!
What I love about this project is that it's not a scrapbook {so I don't have to be crafty to make it work}, it's creatively techy {so the geek in me can smile}, it's easy to do, and will serve our family for years to come! When our son was a toddler, it helped him to put faces with names. As he gets older, it will help him to recognize letters and later words. It does what every good picture book does, connects images with words but in a personal way. If that isn't enough, it can also be a perfect way to save all those Christmas cards each year and update your loved one's photos at the same time! Gift!

Do you have an easy way for your kids to remember their family and friends {besides Facebook}? I'd love to know what it is in the comments!
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Action Zone for the Home Office

In my post, Ideas for Organizing Workflow in a Home Office, I promised I would go into more detail with each particular zone I have designated in my own home office. I will share my action zone {aka action center} and give all the nitty gritty details on how it works and why it works for us. Lights, camera, action zone! {I know that was cheesy, but I couldn't resist!}

What is an Action Zone/Action Center?

An action zone functions as the main hub of my home office. I think of it as the turnstile that brings paper in and out of our office and home. Mail comes in and gets sifted and placed in the action zone. Why do I let it sit there? Because I'm a mom and don't always get the opportunity to deal with the mail the moment I get in the house. I needed a way to "bookmark" my steps and having an action zone is the best way to do it.

What Houses an Action Zone?

An action zone can be housed in a variety of different vehicles, it just depends on your family's needs. Here's a look at some ideas to start your own action zone for your home office.

If you have little paperwork to manage and an even smaller budget, and expandable file may work for you.

If you already have a few extra stacking trays laying around, those work great too.

If you are an overachiever with an unlimited budget, here is my dream action center.

For my family, we have gone middle of the road and used a wall file. It is versatile, doesn't take up desk space, is prominent, and looks pretty {for the girl in me}.

What does an Action Zone Consist of?

Action Zones should consist mostly of verbs {action words}. Pretty obvious, right? Depending on your family's life stage, you may be able to go with just one for the whole house, or you may need several different action zones.

Let's take a closer look at my action zone to give you a better idea of how you can start your own. When I created an action center & drop zone in our previous house, I was using a small spot in our kitchen as an extension of the entryway. Now that we have a bit more room, I am able to dedicate an action zone in our home office loft {home tour coming soon!}.

My original actions created using 3 tab file folders are the most frequently used.
  • Act: Used for items that require a response from me. I place invitations I need to RSVP to, letters I need to respond to, and mailings that I want to opt out of {this is a big one if you want to reduce the junk mail you receive}.
  • File: Used for paper that needs to be filed away in my filing zone or archived in my previous year's record file. Filing is my least favorite thing to do, but it's important to keep up with. 
  • Pay: Used for bills that require payment via mail or online. When it's time to pay bills, I go to this folder to keep track of what needs to be paid. I also arrange the bills in order of due date which helps when membership renewal bills and car registration bills come sometimes months ahead of their due date.
My newest action categories.
  • Follow Up: This is an important one although not as frequently used. Often there are things that I put in the act file that may need to be put on hold. Say I need to return something or am waiting for a response from someone. Putting that correspondence in the Follow Up folder reminds me that it still requires my attention. Follow up can sometimes fall through the cracks so this is one great and simple way to keep it on the backburner.
  • Incoming mail: Remember those days where you run into the house with a bajillion things hanging on you? Groceries, mail, maybe some take out? Well on those crazy hectic days that you are unable to stop and check the mail {that happens a lot around here}, I put our mail in this folder so I can check and sort the mail when there is some down time.
  • Outgoing mail: Another less frequently used, but important folder to have so bills and other correspondences go out in a timely manner. Once you open that wedding invitation and fill out the RSVP card, stick it in the Outgoing Mail folder so the next time you leave the house to run errands, all your outgoing mail is together and ready to run with you.

Why does an Action Zone work?

An action zone is a great way to organize the workflow in your home office. It is the starting and the finishing point of paperwork that needs to make its way through the house. Sometimes I get to a point of downtime where I know there is something I need to be doing, but can't always remember where to begin. My action zone can tell me exactly what that is because there is always something in there.
I hope that his has given you some inspirational gifts you can use to organize your home office and make it work for you and your family. There is still more goodness to come, so get started on your action zone and be ready to take on the next zone as we continue our journey to living and being clutter free.

Do you have an action zone in your house? What does it consist of? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Using an Online Calendar for Time Management

One of my major goals for living a clutter free life is to manage my time better. Time management is important for anyone, but as a mom, it is crucial because it is not just my own life that I need to tend to, but also the life of my family and household. Read on for some helpful time management tips and my techy spin using an online calendar to make better use of time.

Importance of Time Management for Moms

Moms wear many hats to say the least. Whether you are a working mom, stay at home, work at home, single or married, there is so much to do in only a set amount of time. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 12 months per year. That's it. Having limited time should not make you feel pressured to do it all, instead, it should drive you to do only what matters to you and your family. That's management.

Making sure our goals and priorities are in the proper place is the first step in making wise time management decisions. Think about each hat you have to wear in life and what needs to be done wearing that hat. Once you've determined that, prioritize your need-to-dos and want-to-dos accordingly on a weekly calendar. This is where my techy side wants to come out and play.

Why I Use an Online Calendar to Plot My Weekly Schedule

Some things I do, like brainstorming, are better suited for pen and paper, but when it comes to arranging a schedule, I let my techy juices flow on an online calendar. I use the iCalendar on my computer which syncs to my iPhone, iPad and even our PC laptop through Outlook. All of these calendars are accessible anytime and from anywhere, even on the internet.

Beside the accessibility factor, I love how easily I can rearrange events on an online calendar as opposed to writing and rewriting events that happen on a regular basis. While working on my updated weekly schedule, if I don't like the way I've set up my week, I can easily move things around as needed. It's clean and instant.

For those of you who are visual creatures, color coding with an online calendar is another fun and fancy tool to use if you want to see how well you've spread yourself. You could have a different color for each of the hats you wear {self, wife, mom, work, etc.}, in the same way that I use different calendars for my family. When you have completed your weekly schedule, you'll be able to see the balance {or imbalance} of time scheduled and adjust what you need. Here's a sneak peek at my week {stay tuned for a more detailed post on my typical day to come later}.

A Gift for You {Some Time Management Resources}

If you're a bit overwhelmed at the thought of managing your time, fear not! I am here to get you started! I have some free printables that can guide you through the internal process of time management. My Family 5 Year Plan will get you looking at your big picture goals, so you can move ahead with the end in mind. My Priority Pyramid will help you to think about the correlation between your priorities and time.

If you are looking for a more detailed step by step approach to time management, I highly recommend Tell Your Time by Amy Lynn Andrews. I recently read this ebook and found it to be super useful to me and she also provides her own set of printables to go along with her ebook.
Organizing time is much the same as organizing space. Make room for what's important, label your categories, accessorize tastefully and cut out the clutter. You'll notice there is open space on my weekly schedule, that is intentional. Those open cushions of time allow me to be flexible if something comes up in my day and I need so pull a switcheroo. Having a weekly schedule is not meant to be confining, but if done properly {from the inside out}, it creates a filter for important things to come in and unimportant things to stay out.

What do you use to arrange your weekly schedule? If you've tried other methods without success, try using an online calendar. Also, I'd love to know what you think of the resources I give you in the comments!
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Ebook Review {SEO for Creative Bloggers}

One of my bloggy goals for the new year is to become more acquainted with and implement SEO {Search Engine Optimization} into my writing. The topic of SEO can be overwhelming and intimidating for sure. I had to scrape my jaw off of the floor as I began to research the topic! Thankfully there are great bloggers out there who care enough to make SEO relatable and understandable to creative bloggers on a semi non-technical level. Enter Court Tuttle and his ebook, SEO for Creative Bloggers.

How I found Court Tuttle

Three successful bloggers got together to have a series of google+ hangouts with different newbie bloggers to answer their bloggy questions and give priceless pearls of bloggy wisdom! After watching the first hangout, I was hooked! Needless to say, I followed and signed up for everything that I could after that hangout.

When I received an email on a post that Court had written, the link didn't work for me, so I replied to the email in hopes for a proper link. I didn't expect a reply until days or weeks later, but imagine my surprise when I received a reply within minutes! I was impressed with Court's timely, personal and genuine response to my little ol' email. I haven't seen much of that with bigger bloggers.

Still feeling overwhelmed at the thought of SEO, Court sent me a copy of his ebook and my eyes were opened!

What I loved about SEO for Creative Bloggers

Court took the most effective technique in SEO {keyword integration} and watered it down enough for me that it only adds a few minutes to my normal writing process while still making an impact. The way that he framed up SEO and how it can benefit bloggers in the creative niche made it easy to understand, as well as easy to apply to my current process.

Another thing I enjoyed about this ebook is that he went beyond the realm of SEO and into the networking and technical aspects of blogging that not many successful bloggers talk about. From building relationships with other bloggers to effective link structure and strengthening old posts, this ebook is very well rounded in what it covers. And it's all wrapped up in less than 30 pages!

The one thing that stood out most to me while reading the book is how he continually makes himself available to his readers who have questions. He literally gives you his direct email multiple times throughout the book. I can tell you from experience that he really is there to help with your questions!

Go get it!

Enough out of me, if this review hasn't been enough to get you to click over and download a copy of SEO for Creative Bloggers, maybe this will...it's freeeee! Gift!!!

Click here to get SEO for Creative Bloggers

Happy blogging my blogger friends and I hope you learn something new from Court's ebook {no matter how long you've been a blogger}.
Want to know about the next google+ hangout and learn more from these awesome bloggers? Circle me up on google+ yo!

Ideas for Organizing Workflow in a Home Office so You Can Get On With Life

Before I became a full time mom, my desk at the office was my pride and joy. Why? Because it was soooo organized!!! I had systems in place and a fluid workflow that allowed me to get my job done and still have time to help others in the office. Now that I am home full time, I get to create a workflow in our home office and develop it into a full blown mom-cave. The mere thought of it gets me giddy! If the thought of your home office makes you cringe, I will share with you some ideas on how to organize a workflow in a home office that will get you feeling productive and ready to take on the business of being CMO {Chief Mom Officer}, I just made that up, but you get the idea.

The Ultimate Home Office

What does the ultimate home office look like? What does it feel like? For me, the ultimate home office is a place where I can be creative and productive. I can project, blog, and conduct all the major business of running our household {paying bills, planning meals, etc.}, then when called upon, chase the "bad guys" and rescue the "orphans".

I believe that organizing from the inside out is the only way organizing can be most effective, so if your home office is in need of a redo {no matter the size}, think about your ultimate home office and envision it first. Use my Room Organization Planner to help you through the process. Once your vision has been set, you are ready to zone off your home office.

Workflow Zones in the Home Office

The importance of having a good workflow in your home office is the key to enjoying being there. Your home filing system must be easy to understand and easy to access, paper should move in and out of the home office fluidly, and everything must have its proper place. The best way to create an organized workflow in the home office is by creating zones.

Action Zone
The action zone is the main entry and exit point of everything coming through the office. Much like grand central station, the action zone is the turnstile that sends everything to its destination. The action zone in my house is made up of a wall file with two sets of file folders labeled with different actions. Some of the actions I have included are Act {for RSVP's and other correspondences that require a response from me}, File {for filing later}, and Pay {for bills coming up that need paying}.
{Read about my Action Zone}
Project Zone
The home is chalk full of a variety of projects happening all at once with little space to work on them, typically just the surface of a desktop. Since there can be so many projects happening and only a limited amount of time and space to complete them, there needs to be a space set aside for projects that are awaiting completion. A project zone may consist of stacked file trays for scrapbooking, a nook of planning binders, or any combination of the two. {Read about my Project Zone}
Reference Zone
A reference zone is used for all things you use to get inspired and fill your brain. This is where magazine files come in handy to hold all the different magazines and catalogs that get your wheels turning.
Filing Zone
This is where those important pieces of mail and receipts go. They come in the form of a desktop file box, filing cabinet or sometimes a binder. This is my least favorite zone, but one of the most needed zones in any home office. Filing and I don't get along, maybe because she is a close relative of cleaning {who I also dislike}. Although filing is not my favorite task, if my filing box is nice to look at, it helps.
Storage & Supply Zone
For obvious reasons, a storage and supply zone makes it easy to get to the things needed in a home office. This where those fun and fancy organizing bins, pencil holders, and drawers come into play. {Read about my supply zone}

Why Zones are Important to Workflow

Zones are the ingredients to a successful workflow in a home office. Each zone is completely different and performs an important function when getting things done.

Here's a look at the zones at work:

  • Mail comes in and sits in the action zone while dinner is cooking.
  • After bedtime, I sit down to open, sort and file mail in the filing zone.
  • I pull out my household binder from the project zone to plan meals for the upcoming week.
  • As I plan, I go to my reference zone for ideas on what to make for dinner.
  • Once the meal plan is done, I go back to my action zone to find the bills that need paying and either pay them online or get stamps from the supply zone to mail my bills.
See how easy? Taking the time to organize workflow zones can help get things done in a snap! If something needs to be put on hold, into the project zone it goes until next time! 

But wait, there's more...

Because I want your home office to really work for you, I'm going to go into more detail on each of the workflow zones, so keep it close because I'll have some simple and effective tips on how to make each zone work for you so you can be there for your family, not stuck in the office looking for that thing, again.

Do you have other zones in your home office that I haven't mentioned? Tell me about them in the comments!
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Tutorial: How to Turn Off Shared iPhone Calendar Alerts

Technology has made it super easy to be able to share calendars through services like iCloud and the like, but a friend of mine recently asked how to turn off her hubby's calendar alerts so she doesn't get them. It's great to know how his week looks, but she doesn't want to be reminded every time he has to make a conference call. Here's a tutorial on how to turn off shared iPhone calendar alerts so you can still stay informed, while avoiding unnecessary alerts.
Techy Tutorial: How to Turn off Shared iPhone Calendar Alerts

Some Assumptions

I will walk you through the process step by step as my hubby shares his calendar with me. Below are a few assumptions that you should meet to make the most use of this techy tutorial:
  • My hubby and I both use Apple devices.
  • My hubby and I both sync our calendars on iCloud.
  • We both are using the same Apple ID, but this is not required as long as you can obtain a link to your calendar.
If you don't meet this criteria, but want to know more, read my post on the Best Way for Families to use iCloud. See how your family can use technology to stay organized!

Sharing Calendars

First, the hubs needs to "broadcast" his calendar using the broadcast button on iCloud.com or on the calendar application on a Mac.
Share iPhone Calendar
Once he adds my email and clicks "done", I will get and email with a link to his calendar. I want to copy the link in the email, and not click the button provided because I want to paste the link in later. If you're on the computer, right click to copy the link, or tap and hold if checking the email from an iPhone or iPad.
Join Shared iPhone Calendar

Adding Shared Calendar

Now that the link is copied, I can add the hubby's calendar to my iPhone through the settings.
Tutorial: Adding Shared iPhone Calendar without Alerts
  1. On iOS mobile device, start at Settings, then go to Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  2. Add Account under Accounts
  3. Select Other
  4. Add Subscribed Calendar
  5. Paste link from email into Server and tap Next, then create a Description name such as "Hubby's Calendar". Ensure that you set Remove Alarms to ON.
  6. Open Calendar app, tap Calendars on the top right, then add subscribed calendar
You did it! Now you have all the info that you need without the alerts you don't!
This was a bit technical, but I hope that it was easy enough to follow and gets you to the end result of taming technology to work for you {and not the other way around}. My favorite part about using technology to stay organized is that I am in control and I love when I can shout, "I'm smarter than the machine!" Now you can be too with this tutorial! Gift!

Do you have a techy organizing question that's been bugging you? What to know if there's a techy solution to an organization problem you have? Ask away!
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