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How a Simple Bag Became a Magic Organizational Tool

How a Simple Bag Became a Magic Organizational Tool

    Have you ever showed up at a meeting and realized you forgot to bring the right paperwork? Or nipped out to the library only to realize one of your overdue books is still sitting at home?

    There is a simple way to end this confusion: Tote Bag Organizing.

    It’s a fancy name I made up to describe how I keep papers for separate activities together so that I always have what I need by grabbing the appropriate box or bag.

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    How It Started

    A few years ago, all the charities I subscribe to started sending me tote bags. While some of them were converted into reusable shopping bags, I had a few that weren’t suitable. I threw the papers for a Girl Scout meeting into one and forgot to unpack it…and realized how handy it was to have everything together.

    I was no longer scrambling before the meeting to make sure I had everything; and when I needed paperwork that was handed out at the last meeting I knew exactly where to look.

    Does It Have To Be A Tote Bag?

    No, you can use whatever container or other organizational tool best suits your contents. In some cases it might be better to have a smaller or larger container.

    For example, I have started assuming the primary leader role for our Girl Scout troop in preparation for next fall. This means I have to lug supplies back and forth; so a banker’s box takes care of that. Inside will be a plastic folder for our paperwork that I can remove and take as a single unit when we go on a field trip.

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    For a meeting I attend monthly where I need a notebook and pen and a place to keep papers that need to be returned, I use a poly envelope with a closure.

    I also routinely use poly binder dividers with pockets to keep papers together for short-term projects. These live in a container on my desk and get put into the activity bag as needed. An example: the reservation sheets, requirements and meeting information for the Bridging ceremony that will take my troop from Brownies to Juniors.

    How Do You Put This Together?

    It is easy to put these modules together.

    1. Gather everything you would need for the activity.
    2. Put it in a designated container.
    3. Add a writing tool and a notebook or paper.
    4. Subdivide as necessary. (see below)

    How To Make It Work

    After you set up the tote bag, take it to your activity. When you come home again, remove anything that has to be dealt with. Take care of these items and put things back in the bag that will be needed for the next time.

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    If something should come up during the week, make a note and slip it into the bag. If you receive mail that is relevant, put it in the bag.

    Before your next venture to your activity, add what you need, such as books or paperwork.

    Sub-divide as necessary. For activities where you may not need everything all the time, have a way to quickly remove those items. For example, my Girl Scout paperwork, which is required whenever we take an off-site trip, is in a separate pouch so that I can take just that when we go on a field trip.

    If you need to do something with that activity at home, work out of the tote bag, and keep everything together.

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    Various Uses of Tote Bag Activity Modules

    • For my treasurer gig with a local non-profit, I keep a folder for papers, the checkbook and spare supplies in a sturdy bag and add the books we talk about at our weekly meeting.
    • For my Girl Scout papers, I have an old briefcase to keep all the papers in order, along with a package of crayons, extra paper and spare pencils.
    • For my Girl Scout Leader meeting papers, I have a binder pencil pouch that has a notebook inside, a pen, and our tracking slips.
    • For the library, I keep a bag with books and batteries to be recycled (our library accepts these). When a book is not being read, it lives in the bag.
    • For choir we have a small bag with our folders, extra pencils and facial tissues.
    • For the class I am taking, I have my notebook, and the text book stays inside of the bag, but may be removed before class if I know I won’t have to use it.

    Using these tote bags has kept me on track. I always have what I need right at my fingertips, and I haven’t forgotten to return a library book for months.

    Do you have a great way to organize activity items? Share below.

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2018

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

    The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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    The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

    Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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    Review Your Past Flow

    Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

    Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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    Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

    Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

    Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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    Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

    Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

    We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

    Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

      Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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