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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 March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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