Monday, November 19, 2007

Be Productive: Get Your Home Ready for the Holidays

The excitement of the holidays is now upon us and it is during this time we often feel like we have more on our ‘to do’ list than there are hours in the day! A common area of stress for many people is getting our homes ready for the holidays. Working in partnership with a fantastic service, like Harmony Clean can help save you time, help you relax and also give you peace of mind.

Harmony Clean is about healthy home cleaning, naturally. They provide a complete, customized maid service (as regularly as needed) with caring, trained staff that are bonded and insured. Recently I interviewed Vicki Brown, one of the founders of this unique company and asked her how we could get our homes ready for the holidays. Here are several strategies we decided would help get your home ready this holiday season.

Make a holiday ‘to do’ list – include on your list the activities you want to complete at home, the activities you want to outsource and your shopping ‘to do’ list.

Book a special one time clean – if you know you have company coming, a party or a gathering of people; consider hiring the experts to clean your home from top to bottom. This will also make it easier for you to maintain during the holiday period.

Pay attention to bathrooms – these areas of your home will get significant traffic during this busy time, keep these areas clean by placing cleaning products in each room so that you can quickly wipe the counter tops, clean the shower doors and wipe down other areas. I like Shaklee products (recently endorsed on the Oprah show) that are environmentally and people friendly -

Change bed linens – it is great at night to snuggle up into flannel sheet sets. Allocate time to change over all the linens in each room. Do it all on the same day as it makes it easier to remember when they all need to be changed again.

Attend to your guest room – allocate 60 minutes to clean, tidy, dust and clean out closet space in your guest room. This is a great time of year for unexpected visitors so make sure your guest room is ready for anyone that might drop in for a visit or stay over after a meal.

Dust your baseboards – this is a great time of year to pay attention to all the areas in your home you don’t normally clean. Vacuum these areas or wipe them free of all dust, this will also help your heating system function better.

Clean lights and chandeliers – some our lights might be covered in dust and cobwebs so ask the cleaning service to spend time on these fixtures. It is worth allocating someone else to do this time consuming task.

Wipe down kitchen cabinetry – ask your cleaning service to attend to this area. If you are cleaning your own home, spend time wiping down each cabinet and pay attention to the base boards.

Allocate time to decorate – make an appointment with yourself (and recruit your family to help if you can) to sort and hang your holiday decorations. This can be a fun way to spend time with those you care about. If you don’t have any family living close by, recruit a few friends to help you, put on a few drinks and turn it into a holiday catch up.

Make an appointment with yourself to shop online – instead of spending time in stores, determine how many gifts and items you can buy online (from the comfort of your own home). You might also end up spending less money as you won’t be distracted by the other items in store.

Outsource your linens – take your table cloths, matching serviettes and any other linens you might need for your holidays, to your local dry cleaner and ask them to press them, this will save you time. You may even consider giving them to a local ironing service instead.

Polish your silver – if you have special dishes, utensils or items that you don’t use year round but want to use during the holidays, make time to sit down and polish or clean these items. You could also make this a fun activity and ask your family or friends to help you while you talk about fun memories of years past.

Research your recipe books – pull out all the relevant recipe books that you want to use and mark the recipes you will be making. Sit down in one place, in one sitting and make a list of every ingredient you are going to need for your special meal. This will prevent multiple trips to the store (or multiple orders online).

Purchase fresh flowers – these add a special touch to your home during this busy time; they create beauty and will be appreciated by those around you. You can have special holiday arrangements delivered by many companies, I like

Find your serving platters – search your pantry, your cupboards and your basement for all those large platters you like to use during the holidays. It may take time to find them, clean them and then decide which food will be displayed on which platter. I always place them all on the counter top the day of the event so I know which platters are going to be used.

Use party hire – a senior executive I spoke to recently says she simply phones the party hire store and tells them how many people she has coming for a meal and they deliver the cutlery, crockery, linens, candles and extra seats and tables she requires. She rinses off the crockery and they come and pick it all up – no cleaning, no fuss. Can you reach out to your local party hire store and see if they provide this service?

Get your groceries delivered – order your groceries online from your favourite supermarket and have them delivered to your home. For a small tip to the delivery person, you will save so much time and it also means you won’t have to carry them indoors during the cold weather.

Order your main ingredients – if you like to have a ham or turkey on the holiday table, now is the time to place your order for those items and any special order pies you might want. Search out your local farmers market or local produce store.

Use caterers – if you don’t enjoy cooking or you don’t have time, consider hiring someone to help you with the food preparation. Many stores have great pre-cooked meals now and many of them will do special catering, just ask your favourite food store.

Get help – during this busy season there are many services that can help you feel less stressed and give you more time. Consider online shopping services, personal chefs, and dry cleaners, cleaning services, flower delivery and local school children. You might be able to recruit local neighbourhood school children to help you with the many chores you need to get done. I offer to pay my neighbours to help me achieve my ‘to do’ list.

The holiday season is for enjoying with friends and family, it is not meant to be a stressful, busy time. This year decide you are going to stop trying to do it all and get help where ever you can.

Neen James is an International Productivity Expert: by looking at how they spend their time and energy – and where they focus their attention – Neen helps people to rocket-charge their productivity and performance. A dynamic speaker, author and corporate trainer, Neen demonstrates how boosting your productivity can help you achieve amazing things. With her unique voice (Aussie accent), sense of fun and uncommon common-sense, Neen delivers a powerful lesson in productivity. Find out more and subscribe to Neen’s free monthly ezine at

Vicki Brown is one of the founders of Harmony Clean. Harmony Clean is committed to healthy home cleaning, naturally. Their full customised, complete maid service is available weekly, biweekly or monthly. They use top quality HEPA and multi-filtration vacuums and they are fully bonded and insured. Harmony Clean’s team are caring and well trained and they guarantee satisfaction 100% of the time. Find out more and book your next special clean at

Monday, November 12, 2007

Productivity: Stop going crazy for the holidays


This time of year for all my American friends and clients seems to increase their stress levels and cause an amazing sense of overwhelm. I challenge you this holiday season to stop. Stop being so crazy, stop being so busy, stop trying to control everything and stop trying to make everything perfect. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what we are thankful for (not to resent everything we had to do to get to the Thanksgiving table).

This holiday choose to 'delete' instead of 'do'. What can you delete or delegate from your Thanksgiving 'to do' list? Can I make a few recommendations:
1. Get your lines dry cleaned... even better, have the dry cleaner pick them up and deliver them.
2. Pay a professional to clean your home for this event.
3. Buy your groceries online and have them delivered.
4. Create a simple menu that doesn't require significant time in the kitchen so you can enjoy your guests.
5. Ask your guests to help with the preparations i.e. bring a dish to share, set the table, bring flowers, make desserts.
6. Hire help for the day, ask a student or someone you know would benefit from some extra cash and hire their services for a few hours.
7. Create a 'buffet' instead of a sit down meal, take the pressure off and allow everyone to serve themselves.
8. Cook and prepare ingredients in advance so you have less pressure on the day.
9. On the day, get up a little earlier and meditate for 10 minutes. During this time take a moment to reflect on what you are thankful for.
10. Enjoy - being productive is not about doing more, it is about doing less.

Find the things that energize you the most i.e. spending time with those you care about, and do more of that!

One of the secrets of Super-Productivity is to do less, not more and have fun!