Are you prepared? September is National Preparedness Month

September 1st, 2013

September is National Preparedness Month.  What does this mean?  National Preparedness Month is a U.S. Governmental effort that encourages Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools, and communities.  Emergencies can be anything from a flood or other natural disaster, loss of power, loss of access to your financial and online storage systems, an automobile accident, loss of your computer system or your mobile device to a terrorist attack.

www.ready.gov sites default files documents files checklist_1.pdfThere are lots of ways to get prepared.  For residences, it can include creating a family plan, a place to meet up or communicate in case of an emergency, creating an emergency supply kit for your home or vehicle (filled with non-perishable foods, medications), access to contacts for your banks or credit cards.   For businesses, it can be creating a back-up system in case an emergency wipes out your primary system, a plan to communicate with clients/vendors, a back-up of your client records and financial systems, a plan in case an emergency stops the flow of income.  

Why is this important to me?  My goal is to help others simplify their lives and to reduce stress so they can have greater enjoyment.  By being prepared, you can sometimes prevent emergencies or be better equipped to handle them when they occur.

Below are access to lists prepared by various governmental agencies designed to help make sure you are prepared.  What one thing are you going to do today to get prepared?

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Ready.gov was created by the US Department of Homeland Security.   A readiness campaign started in 2004, Ready.gov now run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides lots of information to help citizens be prepared for anything from natural disasters, terrorist hazards, medical emergencies, home fires, blackouts to creating an exit at the workplace or school, and helping out employees in an emergency situation. Check out some of our favorites below.
Emergency Supply List
Caring for Animals
Emergency Food List
Supplies for Unique Needs – babies, seniors, cold climates

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  They have a page on their website dedicated toward preparing for all hazards.  Resources include recommendations for families, schools, childcare centers and emergency and health professionals.  They also provide resources for coping with a disaster or traumatic event.

ucm367034U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also a an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  The FDA is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety, prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs (medications), vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, and veterinary products.  They provide a list that helps you determine if drugs are safe after a natural disaster. They also provide information on what to do if you encounter Anthrax.  The obvious first response would be to contact your physician, a clinic or your local emergency room.

Alert MontgomeryLots of local jurisdictions have their own resources for local businesses and citizens.  My county and town has the option to sign up for emergency text or email alerts.  The State of Maryland also has its own resources for business and residents in case of emergencies.

Montgomery County
http://montgomerycountymd.gov/OEMHS
City of Gaithersburg – https://alert.gaithersburgmd.gov/register.php

While it may not fall under the National Preparedness Month fold, I think getting rid of excess in your home helps you prepare or prevent emergencies.  The local Montgomery County Division of  Solid Waste Services is hosting a secure paper shredding events (they are recycling other things at these events as well).  Shredding papers is a great way to prevent an identity theft emergency.  The first event is this weekend.  Mark your calendars.

www.montgomerycountymd.gov SWS Resources Files paper shredding.pdf

What are you doing to get you, your family, your business prepared for an emergency?  What steps have you taken or plan to take?  We’d love to hear in the comments.

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Simple Ideas to Help Students Get Organized ~ Back to School

August 13th, 2013

As we kick-off another school year in North America, we need to reset our routines.  Folks often ask “how do you get organized for the school year?” or “help me organize my student”.

Here are simple tips to help students manage time, avoid clutter, set goals, and stay on an organized path to a successful school year.

1. DON’T RUSH.
No one likes to feel rushed. It is a process to bathe, dress, eat breakfast and get everything together for the day, Make sure your child wakes up early enough to arrive at school well ahead of the start time. If your child will bathe in the evening, you gain spare time in the morning and some extra minutes of sleep. If your child bathes in the morning, and they need at least 30 minutes to get up, shower, dress and eat breakfast, pad that time by waking them up at least 45 minutes prior to their departure. This will avoid rushing, arguments and stress.


2. WARDROBE PREPARATION.
Before bed each night, help them choose and lay out their clothes for the next day. This way, you’ll avoid arguments and they’ll be all set to dress and go in the morning.


3. DO A NIGHTLY REVIEW.
Each evening spend 5 minutes with your child reviewing their upcoming activities. Determine what needs to be done to prepare. In doing so, they will know exactly what they are expected accomplish the next day.


4. GET ENOUGH SLEEP.
A good night’s rest is essential for students. This will ensure they are alert and ready to learn the following day.


5. EAT A BALANCED BREAKFAST.
Students should eat three healthy meals each day, along with fruit or veggies for snacks. Studies show students who start off with a healthy breakfast had higher energy levels and better learning ability than similar students who did not eat breakfast. Harvard researchers found that students who ate breakfast were “…significantly more attentive in the classroom, earned higher grades in math, and had significantly fewer behavioral and emotional problems.” Avoid overloading on high sugar sweets, which cause many people to feel tired.


6. SET-UP AN EFFECTIVE STUDY ZONE.
Designate a quiet, well-lit area for studying. Make sure the supplies your child needs for school work is easily accessible.  This could be a desk in their room, your home office or the dining room or kitchen table. During study time, minimize disturbing activities so your child can study without distraction. Don’t allow children to study in front of the television, or in an area of your home where they are bound to be distracted.


7. AVOID CLUTTER.
Papers add up throughout the year e.g.) assignments, notices from the school, etc. Be careful not to build clutter as the year progresses. Create separate folders for school announcements, tests that have been graded, papers that must be given to parents and so on. Review your folders weekly. As papers become outdated, such as an event that has passed, toss them immediately.

8. SCHEDULE CONSISTENT STUDY ROUTINES.
We all do better when we have routines. This is more important for children. They do better when they know what is expected of them. Set aside time every day for study, and make it consistent. Set a designated time for your child’s study time for each afternoon. Whatever you do, teach your child to avoid late night, last-minute studying and cramming.


9. SET A TIMER.
Break up big tasks, into smaller, bite-sized jobs. For instance, if they have to read three chapters of a book, read one chapter at a time each day. If they have to work on a project, break it down into three or four manageable stages. It is less overwhelming for the student.

10. TACKLE LEAST FAVORITE OR MOST CHALLENGING SUBJECTS FIRST.
You teach children to eat their veggies before offering dessert. Just the same, your child should start their homework with their most difficult subjects first. Then, everything else will be a breeze, and you will encounter less resistance. AVOID OVER-PROGRAMMING. While you may sign up your child for extra curricular activities, such as basketball or cheerleading. Over-scheduling puts too much pressure on them and can lead to problems managing school work and activity balance. Review their course load. Determine how much study time they will need. Then, choose one or two recreational activities they really enjoy.

11. USE A PLANNER.
Use a good student planner or organizer. The ones that have pocket folders, dividers and planning calendars are ideal. If your child has an iPod or smart phone, you can electronically share calendars and reminder systems. Ask yourself, does my student respond better to paper or electronic notes.


Student homework12. 
WRITE IT DOWN.

Many school systems enable teachers to post homework assignments and tests online. When your child learns of an upcoming test, event, or anything they must prepare for or attend, teach them to immediately jot it on their planner and carve out study and preparation time.

13. USE ONE CALENDAR.
Use one calendar to plan all of the child’s school and personal activities, rather than two or more. When you use more than one, you run the risk of scheduling conflicts and missed appointments. Give the child one place to look for their obligations. If your child has an iPod or smart phone, you can share a calendar where you post obligations and the child can get reminders on their electronic device.


14. COLOR-CODE.
You may consider color-coding your child’s similar activities on your calendar. For example, highlight all upcoming tests in yellow, study time in green and recreational activities in pink or you could do a different color for each child. This is made easy when using electronic planners.


15. GET HELP.
Check in with your student. Teach your child, if they don’t understand a lesson, to immediately ask for help before they get to the point where they are totally confused. A sibling, friend, parent, teacher or tutor can be a lifesaver.


16. OH NO!
If you find your child has gotten off track, teach them to simply take a deep breath, find out where things went awry and get back on track. It is better to get slightly derailed, rather than giving up.


17. REWARD THEM.
Designate enticing rewards for goals your child meets, such as family night at the movies, or a quiet, relaxing walk in the park. As they achieve their goals through hard work, provide them with rewards. This will help keep incentivize them and keep them motivated throughout the year.

What are your favorite tips for getting students organized?  Here is to a great school year!

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Tech Tip Tuesday – 10 Useful Google Calendar Settings, Labs & Extensions

August 6th, 2013

settings icon
Settings

  1. Meeting length – Change default length of an event time slot from 60 minutes to your preferred length
  2. Weather – Want to know the daily forecast by glancing at your calendar? Turn on “show weather based on my location”.
  3. Daily Agenda – Receive your daily agenda in a single email for one or all of your calendars.
    Select a calendar from calendar settings -> select “Reminders & notifications” -> select “Daily agenda”.
  4. Event reminders – Turn off or change the default event reminder notification (pop-up or email) and time in advance for one or all of your calendars. You can set multiple reminders for each event.
  5. Embed a calendar in a website – Great for business intranets, clubs, schools, family sites.
    Select the calendar from calendar settings -> select “Calendar details” -> select “Embed This Calendar”
  6. View other’s calendars on via Google Calendar (not in Settings, on main calendar view) –
    Select “Browse Interesting Calendars” -> browse and add calendars from around the world, most professional and college sports teams schedules, lunar phases, sunrise & sunsets and more.
    Select “Add by URL” to add a calendar where you have been provided code or a URL – school systems often use this method.
  7. Copy an event from one calendar to another – Great for sharing specific events from one calendar to another. Need to add the soccer team’s schedule to your own but only for events your family is attending? Share those games with your own calendar rather than retyping the event. Need to add a work event to the family calendar? Share that specific event to the family calendar.


Labs

  1. Event attachments – Attach a shared Google Document, Spreadsheet or Presentation to your event, or upload a file from your computer. Great to avoid searching for a document needed for an event.

Google-Chrome-Google-Chrome (1)
Extensions
– Google Chrome extensions from the Google Chrome Web Store

  1. Boomerang Calendar –– Syncs with your Google Calendar but lives in your Gmail. It automatically highlights dates and times in the Gmail message with information about whether or not you can attend based on your Google Calendar. It allows you to add events directly into your Google Calendar from the email or enables you to open your calendar. Reduces switching from Gmail and Google Calendar to reply to emails.
  2. Google Calendar Toolbar – Adds an icon to your Chrome toolbar. Mouse over the icon to see your next upcoming event. Click the icon to see your upcoming agenda or add events to Google Calendar.

Want to learn how to add these Google Chrome extensions and others?  Check out our video below
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Home Office Set-up for Optimal File Management and Productivity

July 23rd, 2013

Do you have a home office?  Or do you use your tablet, phone or laptop and your home office is all over your home?  The key to reducing household paper clutter and increase productivity is having a centralized home office.  A home office could be a designated area of a room or a specific room.  Your home office should have a place for papers to be dropped as they enter the home.  It should also have an area where papers that require action or follow-up are placed.  Your home office is an extension of your home and should be treated as such.  You should give it an inviting coat of paint, good lighting and hang some artwork and/or pictures of your family and friends.

Last week, I was interviewed by Robert Lerose of Bank of America’s Small Business Community.  Their site provides great resources and support for small businesses.  Check it out.  It is free to sign-up and participate. I will let you know once the article is published.

Here is a video I created a few years back on creating an ideal home office.

Do you have a dedicated home office? Do you use it?

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It's here! My eBook 50 Ways to Use Technology to Increase Productivity & Profitability is here! Don't let the name fool you. It actually contains over 80 resources. Check the special pricing for Need Another You readers.

Use It or Lose It ~ Organizing Style: Cutting Boards

April 16th, 2013

We are down in New Orleans at the National Association of Professional Organizers 25th Annual Conference.  I am presenting on Friday.  The topic “All Things Google: Tools to Organize Your Clients and Organizing Business with my co-presenter, Josh Zerkel.  I am a Google lover and will soon be starting a regular post on “Using Google to be More Productive” so stay tuned.

On my flight to New Orleans, I read the infamous “SkyMall” magazine.  It is always chockful of organizing items.  Some practical… others impractical.  I came across the Joseph Joseph Chopping Boards.  They are today’s “Use it or Lose It?”

Joseph Joseph Index Advance Chopping Board Set

We have seen many cutting boards that are color coded to avoid cross contamination.  We also know that many times in kitchens cutting boards don’t have a real “home”.  This set comes in two colors – silver or dark gray and two sizes – small and large.  They stack within their case so they are vertical taking up less space in your cabinets or countertop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph Joseph Index Advance Chopping Board Set – $67.95 (large)

  • Chopping board categorization system with four colored boards
  • Color coding system: red for raw meat, blue for seafood, green for veggies and white for cooked foods
  • Illustrated tabs provide at-a-glance reminder; contemporary ABS storage case with a non-slip base
  • Boards are made from polypropylene; convenient, non-slip feet on both sides of each board
  • Dishwasher safe

The chopping boards get “filed” when they are not in use.

What do you think?  Would you use it or should we lose it?  Leave a comment below.

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It's here! My eBook 50 Ways to Use Technology to Increase Productivity & Profitability is here! Don't let the name fool you. It actually contains over 80 resources. Check the special pricing for Need Another You readers.

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