My blog page is moving to…

Howdy, Kids!

I’m excited to announce that my blog has been integrated into my LivingOrderSA website!

I’ll still continue my posts about getting organized and being more productive, plus I’ll throw in some travel tips here and there; it’ll just have a new look is all.

I look forward to seeing you at my new blog home!

 

Enjoy your Thanksgiving holidays,

Helene Segura - Certified Professional Organizer - Signature

 

Do you have the guts to close your business?

Dough Pizzeria - Still crowded even though they take days off.

Dough Pizzeria – Still crowded even though they take days off. Photo by Helene Segura

Every year, a particular person – we’ll call him B –  and I celebrate his birthday by playing hooky from work. He only uses one sick day per year, and it’s for this day. Since he works for “the man,” it is officially called a Mental Health Day. I work for myself, so I call it what it is – hooky. It’s a day to cut loose, have fun and rejuvenate the body and mind. Wait,that is a mental health day!

This year, we went to Dough Pizzeria. I’ve had several business meetings there and always rave to B how incredible the food is. We arrived at 1o:59 A.M. to make sure that we were able to get a table without a long wait. (They open at 11 A.M.) From my meetings there, I know how crowded the place is on any day of the week at lunch or dinner. Our waiter, John, wound up taking care of us for two solid hours of gastronomical heaven.

When the manager came around to check on how we were doing, I took the liberty of asking her about the acquisition of the retail space next door and the planned addition to the restaurant. We talked about how they shut down last December for what was supposed to be a week and turned into two. At that time, they thought they might be able to get the addition done, but the closure turned into contractors planning the new combined space, plus they made necessary repairs to their Italian brick oven.

Did you catch that? They CLOSED for two whole weeks! Isn’t that suicide in the business world? How can anyone possibly close and be expected to not only survive but thrive?

Dough did it. They have built up enough of a reputation for excellent food and service that people are willing to wait. They don’t have a high turnover of staff, so you get to know the employees there and realize that they’re human and need time off like the rest of us. Who can get upset about that?

They publicize on their website when they will close and also post signs on their door. They let their employees know well ahead of time so that their employees can plan what they want to do during that vacation time. They’ve got routines and systems in place so that closing and re-opening are not big deals.

But what about their lost revenue, you ask? Is it lost revenue if their hiring and training expenses are kept to a minimum because of low turnover? Is it lost revenue if their employees take fewer sick days because they get paid vacations and planned days off throughout the year? Is it lost revenue if their employees are happy – and not burned out – and therefore bring in even more business from word of mouth? Their closures are not lost revenue; they are investments in the future of Dough.

Dough has shown that you can run a business according to your own schedule. You can have time off to reboot. Are you willing to give it a try for at least one day?

Best tips and products for organizing tech and cords

English: Assortment of cable ties

Assortment of cable ties (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was recently asked by a reporter for some cord wrangling tips, so I thought I’d share my answer here.

All hail Blue Tooth and USB! Go wireless when possible. If cords do need to be corralled, bundle the “leftover” length behind the desk for a clean look. Use Velcro cable ties or cable clips for this. At the plug end, place labels so that you know what you’re unplugging. Your power strip doesn’t have to live on the floor; consider mounting it behind your desk.

Here are some nifty ways for keeping those wires under control:

Blue Lounge Cable Drop Clips are great for holding chargers in place on your desk: http://amzn.to/Pi4DjY

Dotz Cord Wrap hides your cable in a compartment: http://amzn.to/MXTTJz

Blue Lounge Cable Box can hide wires at floor level or mounted behind furniture: http://amzn.to/RS4DJX

Applecore is wonderful for storing earbuds and other wires inside a drawer: http://amzn.to/RMG5jZ

For keeping tech gadgets in place, check out GridIt: http://amzn.to/ReaPNc

Get organized for Halloween!

Halloween 2006

Halloween (Photo credit: Terry.Tyson)

Halloween is tomorrow!

 

If you haven’t started getting ready yet for the spooky day, you’re cutting it a bit close!

 

Here are some quick Halloween organizing tips to keep you from having a ghoulish time:

 

  1. Gather ’round ye decorations and discard any that are broken, melted, or so faded that you can’t tell what color they used to be.
  2. Donate any Halloween decorations which you haven’t used in the past couple of years.
  3. Donate any Halloween costumes that won’t get re-used.
  4. Keep a list of replacement items you need to buy (if you must) at the “last minute” or “after-Halloween” sales.
  5. When it’s time to take everything down (hopefully this weekend), store it all in lidded, labeled plastic totes until next year.

 

 

Have a frighteningly great time!

Reviews of Cafes on Rue Cler in Paris

Paris - Cafe du Marche on Rue Cler

Paris – Cafe du Marche on Rue Cler. Photo by Helene Segura

Who says good service and reasonable prices can’t be found in Paris?

We walked in the wrong way at Café du Marche, but we were still made to feel welcome. After I butchered my opening French line, the waiter smiled and brought us English menus. The diners around us were happy and lively, so the atmosphere was festive. If you’re into people watching, the café is on a corner on Rue Cler, so there was plenty to take in. The food was very good for the price. It was a lovely, relaxing evening.

Le Petit Cler: 7 euros (almost $11) for the “cheese platter.” Photo by Helene Segura

Keep walking past…

This was our second trip to Paris, so we know that service with a smile is not an automatic there. Our first evening was spent at Cafe du Marche, and we had delicious food at a fair price (for Paris, anyway), and we had a very friendly waiter who took good care of us. So, when we headed to Le Petit Cler on the second night, we expected something similar. We were disappointed. Three slivers of cheese for seven euros, mediocre wine, ambivalent wait staff…and when we were getting ready to order more food, we were asked to leave to clear out a table. When I get kicked out of a place, it’s usually for having a raucous good time. Not in this case. Stick with Cafe du Marche.

Paris - Cafe Central on Rue Cler

Paris – Cafe Central on Rue Cler. Photo by Helene Segura

Great place to go after you get kicked out of Le Petit Cler

We were peeved and headed over to nearby Café Central and were ready to give attitude right back to any waiter. That wasn’t necessary. Our waitress was friendly and didn’t care that we were just ordering drinks and dessert (having eaten the first part of our meal at our previous stop before being asked to leave). We enjoyed the complimentary snacks which arrived with our drinks. We relaxed while we wrote out our postcards and people watched. I’m glad we ended our evening there.

After dining in the Rue Cler area, it’s a short ten-minute stroll to see the Eiffel Tower lit up. Beautiful.

Bon appetit!

How do you determine what the best app is?

iPad mini

iPad mini (Photo credit: patrick-allen)

My friend and colleague, Deb Lee of D. Allison Lee in Washington, D.C., asked me to write a post about education apps for smartphones and tablets. Her question, along with other questions I received on the same day, inspired the post I wrote for her. Read it here.

General Tips for Budget Travelers in Paris – Part 2

Paris market on Rue Cler

Paris market on Rue Cler. Photo by Helene Segura

Sites

The ParisMuseumPass – in 2, 4, or 6 days – is a must if you plan to see the Louvre, the Orsay, the Rodin, or other museums.  It allows you to bypass the ticket lines and save huge amounts of time. The pass can be purchased at most of the participating sites or the TI (Tourist Information) office. We bought our pass at the Cluny Museum because it was nearly empty, so there was no line to buy it. If we had purchased it at the Louvre, we would have had to wait about two hours in the ticket line to buy it. We probably saved two hours at the Louvre, Orsay, Pompidou, and Versailles each. We saved 30+ minutes at the Picasso Museum, St. Chappelle, Conciergerie, Napoleon’s Tomb, and Orangerie each. We figured that we broke even admission price wise; the real savings was in having the time to see more museums instead of wasting time standing in lines.

Eating

Cheapest option: Go to a neighborhood store to buy your groceries.  We bought crackers, cookies, bottled water, and ingredients for sandwiches for 5 euros per person.

Next up: Bakeries and delis.  We found a couple of wonderful bakeries with delectable treats for breakfast, plus we picked up bread for lunch.  We also discovered meat and cheese shops to fill that bread, and we bought some fruit to go with that. Rue Cler has colorful markets with plenty of fresh food. Part of Paris sight-seeing is people watching and picnicking, so be sure to do that with your purchases.

Next up: “Take away” sandwiches (about 5 euros) and crepes (3-6 euros, depending on if you just get chocolate or have them filled with ham and cheese).

Next up: Cafes.  You can sit as long as you want and order however many courses (one or three or twelve) you want. Ask for tap water.  It’s free. Bottled water is about 4 euros each.

Next up: Brasseries or restaurants with Pre-Fixe menus. We found that these were more affordable than “real” restaurants. They had pre-set meals with three courses for 15-18 euros per person. We chose from about five different selections for each course. Unlimited bread! Free tap water! And the food was always delicious.

Most expensive: Restaurants.  You have to book a reservation in most. You are expected to order an appetizer, drinks, a main, dessert, and coffee. The food is more expensive, too. But it tastes so good!

Communicating

To prepare for this trip, we learned a few basic French phrases. This website http://www.secretsofparis.com/with-parisians/ has great communication tips.  We found that if we tried to speak French first, the French treated us kindly, so we did not encounter the stereotypical “rude French” people. We noticed other Americans who spoke English only and never attempted to speak French. They weren’t exactly brushed off, but the French were not quite as helpful to them. Respect their culture when you are in their country, and you will find out how wonderful the French are.

Bon voyage!

 

 

Previous Paris Posts:

Getting to Paris via The Chunnel

General Tips for Budget Travelers in Paris – Part 1

 

Next week: Reviews of Cafes

Safely Scrap Your Papers

Better Business Bureau logo.

Better Business Bureau will host free shred days on October 20, 2012. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In case you missed an earlier blog post, October is National Clean Out Your Files Month. (Yippeee!)

Whether you do that now or at any other time, papers containing personal information such as account, social security, and drivers license numbers should be shredded in order to protect yourself from identity theft. If you have a large stack of papers, consider taking them to a free shred day event.

For National Secure Your ID Day, the Better Business Bureau will be sponsoring free shred days across the nation in October.

Austin will have theirs on October 20 at Dell’s Round Rock Campus.

San Antonio will have theirs on October 20 at the AT&T Center.

If you’d like to prevent some of that paper from showing up in the first place, o-p-t out of as many mailings as possible.

Firstmark Credit Union and LivingOrder® San Antonio Team Up for Less Stress for Teachers Giveaway

Less Stress For Teachers Giveaway - Firstmark Credit Union

Less Stress For Teachers Giveaway – Firstmark Credit Union

Firstmark Credit Union is offering a Less Stress for Teachers Giveaway through their Facebook page. The winners will have their choice of a Classroom Makeover with Certified Professional Organizer® Helene Segura, a gift card or an iPad. Each prize is valued at $500. Additionally, 25 winners will receive an autographed copy of Segura’s book Less Stress for Teachers: More Time & An Organized Classroom.

Firstmark Credit Union began working with Segura earlier in the summer. They collaborated on the free planner that Firstmark CU gives out every August to 81,000 educators in schools in the San Antonio metro area.

“We used to be called San Antonio Teachers Credit Union. In fact, our first branch was located at Fox Tech High School. Even though our name changed years ago, we remain committed to educators,” said Kelley Farwell, marketing promotions manager for Firstmark Credit Union. “We believe teachers have an enormous responsibility and a lasting impact within our community. The Academic Planner is just one way we can show our appreciation for everything they do. We wanted to make our free planner for teachers more interactive. That’s where Helene came in.”

Helene Segura taught for over a decade in the Harlandale Independent School district, which is where she honed her organizing and productivity skills. In 2004, she began her transition into the organizing field. She is the owner of LivingOrder® San Antonio and in 2011 published her book, which combines her experiences from both of her careers to help teachers lessen their daily stress. Segura created the monthly tips and resources that teachers will find inside their Academic Planner.

In celebration of their 80th anniversary, Firstmark Credit Union wanted to do even more for educators, so the planner project evolved into the Less Stress for Teachers Giveaway. The contest runs from October 10 – 31, 2012. San Antonio area teachers can enter the giveaway at Firstmark CU’s Facebook page.

 

Enter from a mobile phone or tablet: http://bit.ly/SSxMnP

If you are not a teacher in San Antonio, but wish to help spread the word about this great contest, please consider using the Social Media Share links beneath this post. Thank you!

About Firstmark Credit Union: The Credit Union serves the financial needs of anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in, and businesses located in Bexar County, as well as education-related employees and students in Bexar County and the 12 surrounding counties; and their relatives. Firstmark Credit Union has operated continuously since 1932 and has endeavored to serve everyone in their field of membership with prompt, efficient and personal service. Because of their efforts to provide dependable, courteous service, Firstmark CU has established long-term relationships with loyal members who depend on the Credit Union to fulfill their financial services needs.

About LivingOrder® San Antonio: LivingOrderSA helps women, entrepreneurs and educators get control of their stressful living and working spaces by teaching clients how to understand their core issues causing disorganization and thereby prevent it in the future. They have provided personal organizing services for clients as varied as authors, physicians, artists, teachers, and domestic engineers. CEO Helene Segura also conducts informative organizing workshops for schools, non-profits and businesses, and is a member of the trailblazing team providing organizing help online at The Clutter Diet. She has been a featured organizing expert in publications such as Woman’s Day, as well as on NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates. Helene is the author of “Less Stress for Teachers: More Time & An Organized Classroom.”

General Tips for Budget Travelers in Paris – Part 1

Paris - Rick Steves guidebook at Cafe Central

Paris – Rick Steves guidebook at Cafe Central. Photo by Helene Segura

I often say that I have caviar tastes on a tuna budget.  I don’t think there’s “cheap” in Paris, but here is what we figured out.

Planning

Get yourself a good guide book.  We really like Rick Steves’ France.  Rick Steves has researched European travel for over twenty years, so he knows what he’s talking about.  His target audience is budget travelers who have “outgrown” staying in youth hostels, but he includes some five-star places in case you want to splurge.  Travelers can also download free audio versions of Rick Steves’ self-guided tours of Historic Paris, the Louvre, the Orsay and Versailles onto an MP3 player/iPod.  His tours helped hit the highlights of the various museums, plus we did not have to rent the museums’ audio guides.

Hotels

There are not many clean, quiet, safe accommodations with private bathrooms and heating/air conditioning for under 80 euros, except for hostels.  It seems like Paris really hikes up the prices…just because it’s Paris. For example, the Ibis Hotel is a European chain. We paid 36 euros at an Ibis in a small Normandy town, but the Paris Ibis was 80 Euros for the exact same room, and it wasn’t near major sites that we wanted to visit. Use Rick Steves’ book or sites like Trip Advisor to choose hotels in the parts of town you’d like to visit. We wound up staying in the Rue Cler neighborhood near the Eiffel Tower for 130 euros per night. We chose the hotel based on having an English speaking staff who could help us if we had booking problems anywhere, as well as proximity to the Metro, cafes, food markets, and… the Eiffel Tower.

Transportation

We went a lot of places via the Metro.  It’s easy to navigate once you know the end line destination. Every hotel has a free map. A single one-way ticket cost 1.70 euro.   We bought a few carnets -10 tickets – to save 25 percent.  We never saw a Metro pass, but if there is one it might be worth it, depending on your destinations and frequency of travel.  We also walked four to eight miles per day up and down museum stairs and on uneven cobblestone sidewalks and streets, so have some good walking shoes. (The more you walk, the more you can eat!)

Last week: Getting to Paris via the Chunnel

Next time: One of the best ways to skip the lines in Paris

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