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Get Organized - It's Time
By Michelle Zabella

How many of you have invested in being organized? How many of you know that January is Get Organized Month? Investing your time to get organized is vital for your work life, as well as your personal life. Here are five new things for 2009:

Year: As they say, "Out with the old, in with the new." Now is the perfect time to purge files (insurance policies, bank statements, investments, etc.), and get rid of unread magazines and newspapers older than three months, as well as expired automobile policies, coupons, etc., that are just collecting dust NOT dividends. If you are an individual who has a collection of articles, tear or cut out the article and throw away the magazine or newspaper. One other "neat" fact is to take all your CDs or DVDs out of the jewel cases and put them into the CD/DVD books that you can buy at stores. It's amazing how much space those little plastic cases take up.

Tax Year: A new tax year begins on January 1 every year so be prepared. Have a spreadsheet or database (or a ledger if you are old-fashioned and don't like computers) set up for your business and/or home expenses, as well as have a folder or envelope handy to put in all your receipts. At least once a month take all your receipts and input them into your spreadsheet or database. Do not forget log in your miles when you are heading to business meetings, networking events, etc; log them in right away, or keep a log book in your vehicle so you remember to document everything you can deduct for taxes. If you are unsure what you can or cannot claim for your business expenses, check with your tax advisor.

Goals: Everyone sets goals for the New Year, so don't forget to set some goals for getting and staying organized. Identify areas in your "organizing" life that cause you stress, such as not being able to find important papers on your desk or locating documents on your computer. Once identified, come up with a plan that will work for you. For those papers you can find, set up folders and label them right away and keep the folders you use most often close at hand; for your documents on your computer, set up folders for areas of your business like "Articles," "Contracts," "Clients," etc., and start moving like-documents into those folders. It may take some time to get these few things set up, but the time you save in locating files when you are looking for them will be cut drastically.

Habits: Some habits are a great thing to have. Here are a few new habits to help you improve your organizational skills and decrease your stress levels:

• Mail: Go through your mail as soon as you bring it into your home and/or office. Sort it and take the appropriate action such as immediately throwing out the junk mail, paying your bills (and then filing them) or putting the bill in your "to-do-later" file.

• Make a "to-do" list: If your life is chaotic, having a "to do" list is a simple way to keep things always in the open and help keep you focused on the tasks at hand. Your list can be old-fashioned, as in writing down your tasks on paper, or put them on your computer tasks list, your Blackberry or on your calendar. Whatever mode you use, it will help you remember things to do.

• Declutter your office and home space: The less you have, the less you have to lose, the less you have to organize. Purge your files, destroy old documents, and get rid of unread magazines.

January is Get Organized Month, so it is the perfect time for all of us to take a look at where we are in "organization life" and where we want to be. Just a few new goals and habits for organizing your office and/or home will decrease your stress level and bring more time for fun and enjoyment into your life. What a great way to start 2009!

Michelle Zabella
Professional Organizer

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