Author Archives: Alison

About Alison

I have four wonderful boys. I am an organised person by nature and I love to be involved with my kids and their schools. I have had kids at various schools for the last 21 years and still have another 7 years to go…that is 28 years of school, sarmies, homework, exams, committees, play dates, sports, etc. I have served on PTAs, been the chairperson of the governing body, served on the Board of Directors, done tuck shop, lifting, class reading, coached hockey, dressed up as the Easter Bunny and generally just been involved on every level and loved every minute of it. 8 years ago I decided to take up karate with my two younger kids and managed to achieve my black belt in the same year that I turned 50. A lot of what I achieve in my life is due to goals that I have set along the way. I have an incredibly positive outlook on life and get a kick out of seeing the best in people.

IS YOUR EMAIL TAKING UP TOO MUCH OF YOUR TIME?

HOW TO PREVENT EMAIL FROM BEING THE MOST COUNTERPRODUCTIVE ACTIVITY IN YOUR WORK DAY!

Email is fast becoming the number one enemy when it comes to being productive. I know because I have been there too. I have spent much time trying to master a method that deals with my emails in the fastest and most efficient way. Make no mistake, it is a very useful tool that we all need, but in many ways it is counterproductive.

How many of you start your day by switching on your computer, opening your emails and spending the next few hours stuck there feeling overwhelmed by this endless flow of emails coming at you, not to mention the ones left over from yesterday, and the day before, and the week before?

Have you ever analysed what all these emails are about? When you do, you will see that very few of them are directly related to you doing business. There are bank notifications and statements, emails trying to sell us things like Groupon, emails from experts who we have signed up to because we are interested in something they have offered us for free, but are now trying to sell us something, people who want to connect with us, Facebook notifications, those lovely little emails that circulate with feel good things, spam and junk mails that make no sense whatsoever, information about your neighborhood, kids school emails, other informative emails AND maybe an email or two where a client is inquiring about your product or service because they want to do business with you.

So how do we deal with them in a way that they are not swallowing up time which could be spent doing things that actually make us money? It is not like Facebook where we can just decide one day that we no longer want to be part of it, there is information that we actually do need in our emails. Here is my system that has worked really well for me:

STEP 1 – Become selective about what you receive

The first step is to become really selective about what you need and what you no longer need to receive. Go through all you emails and choose who you can unsubscribe from. As business owners we are all trying our best to get our goods and services out there and email is very much part of that. I am reading more and more where people are advising that one needs prospective clients to see something at least 6 times before they buy and one should send out an email daily in order to make this sale. So we see an article that interests us and in order to get what is on offer for “free”, we need to sign up to a mailing list. Then the countless emails start, one after another. Because it is a topic that we are interested in or need to learn more about, it catches our attention every time we see another email come in, taking our attention off whatever we are doing at the time. When you have the information that you initially needed, unless you are planning to buy something or you actually read the newsletters, just hit unsubscribe. When you need that course or information, you can Google it again. If it is someone that resonates with you and you want to remember their name, have a place in your diary or journal where you keep names and websites of interest and you can rather refer to that when the time is right.

STEP 2 – Create sub folders

Make folders that make sense, so that when you are looking for an email, you know exactly where to find it, without wasting time. Of course there is also a search function that works brilliantly if you have key words or the email address. I have each year of my diary as a folder and under each year I have sub folders like “Sales” and under that I have sub folders like “Retail, Agents, Direct Sales, etc.” I also have a “Personal” folder with sub folders for each of my kids, my mom and so on. My rule is that I don’t file an email in a folder until I have dealt with it. Once it goes into a folder, it is forgotten and is only there to refer back to if you need that information. If there is a string of emails about one topic, I check to make sure the last email contains all the previous info and keep deleting the previous ones. Do housekeeping on these folders from time to time as they too can become overwhelming.

STEP 3 – Set up categories

In Outlook you have a function where you can set up categories – there are 6 different colours that you can use and you are able to edit the category heading. I have them set up as follows: Personal, Bank, Business, Waiting For Reply, To Read, Advertisers. Anything that does not fit into any of these categories stays in the general section. When you go through your emails, allocate them into their categories. It is far more productive to work on one thing at a time, for instance, when I log onto my bank, I will go to the emails under the “Bank” category where I have put anything to do with money coming in or going out or anything that I need to check on my bank statement. That way I stay focused on what I am doing at that moment, without the distraction of other emails in my inbox. When you are working on the categories, remember to select “sort by category”. And once dealt with, file or delete!

STEP 4 – Keep minimum emails in your inbox

When I switch on my computer in the morning, I do a speed email session. I give myself one hour, after which I leave my emails alone or concentrate on specific emails that have relevance to my business. I go through the emails and immediately delete the junk emails or ones that I don’t need to read, skipping over the ones that I need to do something with and not forgetting to unsubscribe if I don’t need to receive that email again. I then go back to the top and group what is left into its category so that I can deal with similar things at the same time. Next I go through each category, including the ones that are left ungrouped. Within the groups I first deal with the ones that don’t require too much action, e.g. a newsletter from school, I would quickly read and make a note of any dates or actions in my diary. If I need for reference at a later stage, it gets filed under one of my kids names, otherwise deleted. Once I have done this, I am left with very few emails in my inbox, I try and keep it under 20 at all times – that means I have 20 things waiting for action or reply – any more than that and I feel completely stressed out! Some of those 20 then become part of what I plan to do in my day and become an item on my list in my diary or journal, where I allocate a specific amount of time to them. Others are things where I am waiting for responses from other people, so just have to leave them there as a reminder. Even those cannot stay for too long and sometimes rather get put as a follow up in my diary and then filed in a folder.

STEP 5 – Close your email

Unless you are actually working with specific emails, rather close your email or make sure that the notifications are switched off so that you don’t get distracted by emails coming in. Have set times in the day where you do your speed email sessions and limit the time that you spend doing it. If you have the type of business where you need to action emails often, you can do this more frequently, but make sure that when you are working on something else, you are not being distracted by emails coming in.

STEP 6 – Be respectful towards others

So having said all that and knowing that we all need email to work for us in our business, how do we change our attitude so that we don’t become an UNSUBSCRIBE statistic? Be mindful of how much email people are receiving and rather don’t bombard them with one email after another. Make sure that what you are sending out is of value to others. Try and keep emails short and to the point. Not every email requires a response, decide whether you really need to say “thank you” or “pleasure” as it is just another email for someone to delete!

You will find that once you have your email under control, you have far more time to do the things that actually count in your business.

HELP YOUR KIDS GET ORGANISED

FREE download sheets, tutorial and videos
BANNER_kids organised

The new year has started and we are already well into the first term. This term is normally filled with meet the teacher meetings, class photos, book covering, sports tours, school camps, athletics day, inter-house swimming and so many other things. All this before we have even mentioned normal day to day school work, projects, orals and homework.

I don’t remember school ever being this intense when I was growing up!

As with adults, being disorganised has a severe effect on learners as anxiety will set in if they don’t feel prepared. Knowing and planning ahead will ensure that learners are prepared, and will help them achieve the best results that they can.

If your child is battling to keep up with homework and tasks, please share this 6 STEP simple video demonstrated blog with them!

STEP 1 – HOW MUCH TIME

Kids need to know how much time they have available to do homework, projects, assignments and to study. This will depend on what sports and extramural activities they have on and what your family weekends look like. Using the downloadable time sheet, help them work out their time availability.

  1. Block off the chunk of time from the morning until the end of their school day.
  2. Block off time for any weekday or weekend sport or extra murals.
  3. Block off the time spent eating dinner, preparing for bed, showering, etc.
  4. Block off any other set commitments that they have during the week or weekend.
  5. Look at the gaps and decide how many hours they could dedicate to homework, studying & projects each day, bearing in mind that they also need some time to relax.
  6. Add up the number of hours available to study per week.

Download Printable Time Sheet

STEP 2 – BEING PREPARED

Knowing that everything is done and ready by the time kids go to bed the evening before, will leave your child feeling far calmer, and will save them from getting into unnecessary trouble at school. A good idea is to have a check list for them so that they never forget anything.

  1. Check their timetable for the next day.
  2. Make sure all homework has been done.
  3. Make sure all required books are in their bags.
  4. Pack in sports and PE clothes.
  5. Check if there are any orals, projects, tests or assignments coming up soon.
  6. Get mom or dad to sign the homework diary.
  7. Any notices for parents to be given and signed.

Download Printable Checklist        (to see a sample of the checklist, click here)

STEP 3 – MANAGING PROJECTS, ORALS AND ASSIGNMENTS

Because projects and assignments are given a couple of weeks in advance, they often get forgotten or left to the last minute and then rushed through.
Sometimes when there is a big task to do, they leave it because it feels overwhelming.

  1. Write down each step needed to complete the project, oral or assignment.
  2. Estimate how long each step will take.
  3. Check the time sheet to see which days are best to work on various parts of the task.
  4. Weekends are a great time to put in extra work for things like projects, orals & assignments.
  5. Work backwards in your diary from the last step & put a date that you are going to complete each part of the task.
  6. Always aim to finish at least 48 hours before the due date. This gives you time for anything that may come up at the last minute.

Download Printable Project Breakdown Sheet

STEP 4 – TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

When children are younger, as parents, we email, write notes and call their teachers and friend’s parents for them. As they get older, it is more likely to become their responsibility to do any of the following:

  1. Excuse themselves from sport.
  2. Call a friend to find out about homework.
  3. Send their teacher a message.
  4. Anything else school related.

STEP 5 – ACHIEVING GOALS

One of the fundamental skills for success is goal setting. Kids are never too young to learn this skill, as long as we keep it age appropriate and make it about bettering themselves and not about being overly competitive.

This creates a platform for great bonding with your child, a time to find out what their dreams and aspirations are. It is also a good time to talk about their goals from the previous year and encourage them in the areas where they did not reach their personal targets and help them deal with disappointment they may be feeling as a result of this.

They can use goal setting to do well in school, sports or any other areas that they wish. The long term benefit is that kids who learn to set goals while they are young, will grow up knowing how to set and reach goals. As adults this could help them in areas of finance, work and personal achievements.

  1. Know what they want to achieve.
  2. Pick several goals for the coming year.
  3. Write them down.
  4. Work out their steps to achieve them.
  5. Put dates to the various steps.
  6. Write the steps in their diary so that they don’t forget to do them.
  7. Refer back to their goals on a regular basis.
  8. Reward themselves when they achieve them.

Download Printable Goal Setting Sheet

STEP 6 – USING A GOOD HOMEWORK SYSTEM

It is essential to be organised at school or college. Most working people, even top managers use some form of diary or organisational system. Learning a good system now will help your child later in life.

There are various different formats of homework diaries available and most do the job, but an effective system will make all the difference.

The School / Student Sorted™ Planner is a system that can be used at school, college, university or even kept on their desk at home to help your child manage their time.

Here are some of the features of the School / Student Sorted™ Planners:

  1. Homework is viewed one week at a time – this gives the learner a good idea of what is needed each week.
  2. There is a key on the left hand side of the diary page, which can be broken down into different subjects and sport or extramural activities.
  3. This means the daily pages can include sport, extra murals, breakdown of projects, assignments & studying, personal commitments, goal steps and any other school activities like camps, tours, school photos, etc. and is flexible enough to customise to suite each individual.
  4. It has time sheets for summer, winter and exam times.
  5. School time table.
  6. Year planners for the current and following year.
  7. Sheets to break down projects and assignments.
  8. Goal setting section.
  9. Exam study planning sheets.
  10. Colour tabs to indicate when certain tasks are due.
  11. Place to write contact numbers & email addresses. This encourages kids to be more independent.

HELPING YOUR KIDS PLAN THEIR STUDY SCHEDULE FOR THE UPCOMING EXAMS

FREE downloadable study planners!!

It’s hard to believe that another year is almost finished and that our kids are starting to gear themselves up for exams. Having had 4 kids, 2 of whom are still at school, I have had plenty of years’ experience in kids writing exams.

Many kids dread this time of year, but this could be avoided if they were properly prepared.

Here are some tips with links to worksheets that can be downloaded and used to help them with their planning. I have also included 3 short videos to make it easier to understand.

STEP 1 – HOW MUCH TIME

Kids need to know how much time they have available to study. This will depend on what sports and extramural activities they have on and what your family weekends look like. Using the downloaded time sheet, help them work out their time availability.

  1. Block off the chunk of time from the morning until the end of their school day.
  2. Block off time for any weekday or weekend sport or extra murals.
  3. Block off the time spent eating dinner, preparing for bed, showering, etc.
  4. Block of any other set commitments that they have during the week or weekend.
  5. Look at the gaps and decide how many hours they could dedicate to studying each day, bearing in mind that they also need some time to relax.
  6. Add up the number of hours available to study per week.
  7. Times the hours per week by the number of weeks from now until just before exams start – this is how many hours they have to prepare!

Download Time Sheet

STEP 2 – WHAT TO STUDY AND HOW LONG IS NEEDED PER SUBJECT

Most schools will have handed out the notes on “what to study”. Using these, or the downloaded worksheet, they need to decide how many hours they need to allocate per subject.

  1. If your child has had sheets handed to him/her with the full breakdown of what to learn, then they can skip the next 4 points below (start again with point 6).
  2. Write each subject in the heading on the downloaded page/s.
  3. Fill in the date of the exam for that subject.
  4. Write the topics that need to be studied within that subject.
  5. Break it down further into sections within those topics.
  6. Next take the total number of hours available as worked out in STEP 1, and divide by the number of subjects to study (e.g. 32 hours available / 8 subjects = 4 hours per subject).
  7. Decide whether they want to study an equal number of hours per subject, or whether they want to take some time from one subject to allocate to another (e.g. Take 1 hour from Maths and add it to History).

Download Subject Breakdown Sheet  (Print as many sheets as subjects to study)

STEP 3 – SETTING UP A STUDY SCHEDULE

This is the final step for your kids to set up their study schedule. They have already worked out how much time they have available, what they need to study and how much time they need to study each subject. Next, they need to have a planner so that they fill out a study schedule, from now until the exams are over.

Enter your email address so that we can send you STEP 3

BANNER_exam



HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS

I see so many people who are battling to find a job or wanting to start a business but do not know where to start. To be quite honest, nobody should be without work, we all have the ability to make money, as long as we are healthy and have some level of education.  For some people the thought of starting their own business is quite overwhelming but actually it is not that bad if you just do it step by step. As I am a serial entrepreneur, I have jotted down a few ideas of how I would go about it and hope that this will inspire you to do the same.

 WHAT BUSINESS CAN YOU START?

  • Think about your hobbies or your passion and see if there is something you can turn into a product or service to offer others – art, sewing, knitting – you can make and sell or teach others to do what you are good at.
  • Find opportunities out of your own needs – sometimes the best ideas come from a solution to a personal need – like me creating a diary that could manage everything that happens in my own day as well as my family’s commitments, because I have always worked or run my own business while bringing up my 4 kids.
  • What are you good at or what do you already know how to do. bookkeeping, HR, web design, etc.
  • If you prefer something more structured, there are a whole host of multi-level marketing opportunities out there. These are tried and tested systems, with training, products and loads of support that come as part of the package. We tend to balk at these, but they are genuine opportunities with great earning potential.
  • Whatever you decide to do, before you put any money into it, speak to others about your idea, do some market research. There are loads of people on Facebook who are more than happy to give feedback if you ask for it. Make sure that your idea is viable and that it is something that others would want.

COSTING, CASH FLOW PROJECTIONS AND START UP CAPITAL

  • Once you have decided what it is that you want to do, you need to work out how much money you can make. For products, do your costing, mark-ups and work out how many units you would need to sell in order to make the amount of money you need to make. For a service, decide what you want to charge and how many hours you would need to work. For multi-level marketing type businesses, all that information is already available to you.
  • Spreadsheets are a great resource. Excel is an easy program to use, it is readily available to anyone who owns a computer and the formulas are extremely helpful.
  • Do a cash flow projection for the next 2 years i.e. how much money do you project will come in and how much will go out each month. It helps you to see how much capital you need to start your business, when you will break even and make a profit.
  • Once you know how much you need, you will have to decide whether to take a loan from a bank or family, use a credit card or overdraft or use your savings – this is an investment into your future and most businesses will require some sort of capital outlay.
  • Try and keep your initial investment as low as possible, start small and grow over time.

SETTING UP YOUR BUSINESS

  • The better your planning and systems to start off with, the more smoothly your business will run in the future and the less time you will spend putting out fires.
  • Formally register your business with CIPC – depending on how big you want to grow and whether you want to sell your business one day, it is often better to keep you and your business as separate entities.
  • Branding – this is what you are putting out there, it is your “shop front” and probably the most important thing to get right when you start.
  • SARS registrations – get your SARS registrations done and make sure that you stay up to date with your returns and payments.
  • Keep good track of your finances – you could either use a formal bookkeeping system or keep records on Excel.
  • Work out your marketing strategy for the next couple of months. In this day and age of technology and social media, there are so many marketing opportunities, without having to spend a fortune.
  • When planning any section of my business, I do mind maps. I start off by writing the main topic in the middle of the page e.g. MARKETING and then write all the different ideas around the page e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Website, Blog, Pinterest, Trades with others, People I could approach, etc. Then under each one, I write ideas. I love using different colours and shapes to do this.

The reason most of us start a business from home is so that we can have more time with our families and for ourselves. So often what happens, is our business starts taking over our lives and keeping us busier than a regular job. Always remember the reason you started working for yourself and when you find that you are moving away from living that dream, relook at how you are doing things, I speak from experience on this, it has taken me years of working long long hours to realise that this is absolutely not necessary.

HELPING YOUR KIDS WITH TIME MANAGMENT AND ORGANISATION AT SCHOOL

As parents, we often struggle with our own time management. Can you imagine how difficult it must be for kids?  At their young age they need to deal with school, homework, projects, sport and other activities. I am convinced that kids nowadays have twice as much on their plates than we ever had when we were at school. The best way that we can help them with this is to offer them the best systems possible with regard to time management and being organised.

Here are some tips that you can pass on to your kids – teach them to take responsibility, work smartly and to be organised now and they will take these skills with them into adulthood.

BEFORE YOU CAN MANAGE YOUR TIME, YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW MUCH TIME YOU HAVE AVAILABLE

    1. Use a time sheet that shows a week at a glance. This should be divided up into days of the week and hours in the day – starting from the time you wake up in the morning, until the time you go to bed at night, and should be in half hour increments.
    2. Block off times and shade the blocks
      These could consist of the following (each in a different colour)
      i)             School hours
      ii)            Various sports and extra murals
      iii)           Supper , shower and bed time
    3. You will be left with white spaces, which is your time to fit in homework, projects and any other activities that you do, including time to do your own thing.
    4. You would need to draw up a different time sheet for summer and winter as sports change. You would also need a different one during exam times as school hours and sports times often change during exams.

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR ALL ASPECTS OF YOUR SCHOOL LIFE

When you are younger, your parents email, write notes and call your teachers and friends parents for you, but as you get older, it is more likely to become your responsibility to do any of the following:

  1. Excuse yourself from sport
  2. Call a friend to find out about homework
  3. Send your teacher a message
  4. Anything else school related

I would suggest keeping friends and teachers contact information in your diary as it is easier and saves time to have all in one place, instead of having to search around every time you need it.

BE PREPARED FOR THE NEXT DAY

If you are well prepared the evening before, you will feel far calmer for the day and it will save you getting into unnecessary trouble. Do a quick check again in the morning before you leave home.

  1. Check your timetable in your homework book
  2. Make sure all your books are packed in your bag for the next day
  3. Check that you have done all your homework
  4. Pack in your sports and PE clothes

EXAM AND TEST PREPARATION

Being prepared for your exams will mean that you will go into the exam feeling confident and relaxed. You have a far better chance of achieving your best possible results that way.
Being unprepared will have the opposite effect on you – you will be worried and stressed and it will reflect in your marks in a negative way, leaving you feeling disappointed with yourself.

  1. Have a page for each subject in your homework book
  2. Write each section of work under that subject as a sub heading
  3. List each item that you need to learn under that sub heading
  4. Have a column down the right hand side where you can estimate how much time is needed to study each section. This will help you with planning your study time when it comes to exams.
  5. You can also have another column where you can tick once you have studied that section – use pencil so that you can erase it and do it again with the next set of exams.

PROJECTS AND ASSIGNMENTS

Because projects and assignments are given a couple of weeks in advance, they can sometimes get forgotten or left to the last minute and then rushed through.
Sometimes when there is a big job to do, we leave it because it feels overwhelming.
Remember the question “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is “One bite at a time!”

Instead of looking at one big task, rather break it down into “bite size” chunks that are more manageable and less overwhelming.

  1. Write down each step you need to do to complete the project (e.g. * buy cardboard *do a mind map to establish headings and some points *research info on the internet & save to Word document *summarise into your own words * find pictures to go with the info *save pictures to memory stick and have them printed *put the project together)
  2. Estimate how long each step will take
  3. Write the due date in your homework diary
  4. Look at your time sheet to see which days are best to work on various parts of your project (it is always a good idea to put some time in over weekends, especially for things like projects)
  5. Work backwards in your diary, slotting in the tasks that you have identified from the bottom up. Always aim to finish at least 48 hours before the due date, to give you time for anything that may come up at the last minute

SETTING GOALS FOR YOURSELF

A great way to start your year is to think about what you hope to achieve and where you want to be when this 12 month journey ends. If you don’t set goals, you won’t know where you are going or which way to go to ensure you get there.

  1. Know what you want to achieve
  2. Pick several goals for the coming year
  3. Write them down
  4. Work out your steps to achieve them
  5. Refer back to your goals on a regular basis
  6. Reward yourself when you achieve them

USING A HOMEWORK DIARY OR PLANNER

It is essential to be organised at school. Most working people, even top managers use some form of diary. Learning a good system now will help you later in life.

You get many different types of diaries, some are more effective than others.

The School Sorted™ Planner is a diary that includes sheets and pages where you can do all of the things listed above. When your diary is open, you can see the full week. There is a key down the left hand side, which can be broken down into different subjects and sports or activities. Each line then represents a subject or sport. It also comes with colour sticky tabs that represent things like projects, tests, exams, orals, etc – so you can always see at a glance if something is due. It is a format that will help you stay completely on top of all that you need to do.

To order your own copy of The School Sorted™ Planner, click here

   School Sorted

 

MARKETING A BUSINESS HAS NEVER BEEN MORE ACCESSIBLE OR COST EFFECTIVE AS IT IS TODAY

No business can survive without some degree of marketing. Years ago when I first started out in my own business, my only option was print advertising.
I owned a computer company and used to proudly occupy the position on the front page of the Cape Ads week after week, and WOW, did we sell computers from that advert.
At that stage it was partly position, partly repetition, but most of all – people would actually buy the Cape Ads as this was the only way that they could buy and sell second hand goods.
Of course that was in the days before Gumtree and OLX and other such websites.

Today things are so different, it is all about building a following and connections. Although this is a process and does take time, if you work at it consistently, you will eventually end up with your very own audience to market to. I used to think that the only way to do this was to constantly run competitions and to give things away, but found that I was not necessarily attracting people who were serious about my business or my products. The day I sat down and worked out a strategy for my marketing, was the day I started growing organically and consistently. It was almost as though someone had flicked a switch and people out there started taking me more seriously.

So, what if you don’t yet have that following? Find someone with the same market as yours who does have a following and tap into their market.

M.O.M Diary has an established client base and following on various platforms which I am willing to share with a maximum of 200 businesses who have a similar market to mine.
If your market is women and you would like to increase your prospects, please email me on alison@wonderfullyorganisedwomen.co.za.
I will even include showing you how to develop a marketing strategy for the next year if that is what you need. I mentioned above that marketing now days is not only accessible, but also “cost effective”. Of course I am going to expect something in return, but I am offering you HUGE value for the approximate price of “a meal for one person in a restaurant” per month.

I look forward to hearing from you via email or you can click here to have a look at what our  marketing offering consists of.