Automate your Life
By Debbie Williams of Organized Times
As the new year begins, I'm reminded to slow down and focus on
friends and family - what matters most in my life. But my to do list reads
like a novel, I'm pressed for time, and can't seem to get all my errands
done. When oh when will I be able to squeeze in the time for business
research, self improvement and shopping?
Why not try using automated tools to simplify your life this month?
Beginning with simple online research, then expanding to virtual assistants
and personal shoppers, keep notes and news at your fingertips and eliminate
those time wasters in your personal and business life.
Online newsgroups and discussion lists are great for ongoing research in
your area of interest. Whether you are conducting research for your first
novel, gathering statistics for a business report, or looking for a support
group, use cyberfriends to gain access to valuable information. Quite often
information at your local library is not up to date, and you don't have much
time for perusing the bookstores these days. Why not let the information
come to you via email and your favorite Web sites? Subscribe to newsgroups,
and interact at your own level of comfort. Bookmark your favorite Web site
discussion groups, and don't forget to write down your login name and
Another way to have current information is to subscribe to ezines or
informative email announcements. I realize many of you run from the thought
of another incoming email, but this isn't junk mail-- it's a timesaving tool
you'll learn to look forward to receiving. Whether you are looking for
useful Web sites to recommend for your newsletter readers, content for your
ezines, or books to add to your personal library, ezines are a great way to
streamline your surfing experience. Writers, webmasters, and parents all
enjoy "best of the best" ezines and Web sites such as Briefme, Suite101,
About.com, and so forth. Let someone else do the work for you, and skim over
their results. It's like having a personal assistant on the payroll working
Speaking of personal assistants, when your small business expands beyond a
one-man or one-woman office, but you're not quite ready to hire a staff,
consider using an intern or virtual assistant. It's amazing how much talent
is available among college students, and they need the experience as much as
you need their expertise. Their views are fresh, energetic, and creative.
Looking for someone to update your database or gather demographics for your
home business? Recruit a college student studying marketing or business.
Need a simple yet affordable website for your company? Hire a college or
high school student. Technology is everywhere, and kids are learning how to
use software and the internet at a rapid rate. Let them show you their
stuff, and give them a glimpse of the business world while you're at it.
You'll both benefit, and their next employer will thank you.
No room for a real live person working by your side? Utilize a virtual
assistant to help you maintain your bookkeeping system, process your taxes,
or manage your payroll. Virtual assistants (or VA's) are pros at business
management, working with clients all over the world. They have access to the
best systems and expertise to save you time and money. Be sure to check with
your accountant to find out how to handle the tax and bookkeeping
Personal shoppers and errand companies are a wonderful time-saving tool in
your busy life. Whether you're the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and need 50
executive gifts for the Christmas party, or a physician planning a company
gathering, you can benefit from the services of these pros. Ask your friends
for referrals, or use personal shoppers from your favorite department store.
They are experienced in selecting and delivering the perfect gift for
everyone on your wish list, and will ensure your party is a success. On a
smaller scale, professional organizers specializing in running errands and
event planning can help you coordinate special events or routine errands
that need to be performed on a regular basis. Dry cleaning, ordering
flowers, picking up a cake, delivering a balloon bouquet to a special
client -- all these tasks are part of the personal organizer's day.
And last but not least on your automation list are checklists and forms.
Whatever would we do without spreadsheets and laminated lists to keep us on
track in our business and personal life? Grocery lists, menu planning,
personal library inventory, items loaned to friends-- all these transactions
can be recorded on a list or form, to be filed away for easy retrieval. If
you carry a handheld organizer, electronic PDA or notebook, create a section
in your planner for these lists. Make a template and customize it for all
your needs such as groceries, office supplies, wholesale club list, packing
list for travel, and so forth. If you prefer, file your list near the source
to make sure it's available when and where you need it: grocery list posted
on the fridge, office supply inventory in the storeroom, packing list in
your hangup bag. There's no need to start from scratch each and every time
you travel to the store across town or to see a new client across country.
Streamline the organizing process saves time and energy for you and your
In summary, use all the wonderful tools that are available today to simplify
your life. Make lists, record notes to yourself, bookmark your favorite
Web sites, subscribe to email announcement lists for recommended reading from
your favorite online bookstore. All these are wonderful timesavers just
waiting to be used. I'm sure you can think of at least a dozen more, and
encourage you to use your favorites as well. I can't give you more hours in
your busy day, but I can help you find some time that you once thought was
lost. It's up to you now, to spend your newfound time wisely and not all in
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Debbie Williams is an organizing strategist and founder of the online organizing forum, OrganizedU.com. She is the author of
Common Sense Organizing, from Champion Press.
Copyright 2001, Debbie Williams