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Author: Ellen FayeChallenging Disorganization General Goal Setting Productivity Time Management

Time Control

Time Management TipsEndless Tasks….Overwhelming Pressure….Desire for Results….Knowing there has to be a better way…

Escaping to Waldon Pond or traveling the country via RV are definitely options – but for most of us not viable ones.  Minor adjustments that cumulate for noticeable change are much more desirable.  A few time control techniques I’ve come to count on include:

Minimize Thrashing – Thrashing is the computer science term for when a system spends more time switching from task to task then actually working on the task.  When we spend our time thinking about what we have to do, remembering where we were in the project, and then building up momentum to get results we are thrashing. Nothing is more frustrating than getting to the meat of a project and then having to stop.  I have found the best way to minimize thrashing is to plan substantial chunks of time for a project.  I’ll arrange my schedule to be able to commit 2 or 3 CONTINUOUS hours to the task. While it may be hard to find those uninterruptable hours it sure is worth it when the projects done!

Batching – Grouping small relatable tasks together to create an economy of scale yields tangible results as well.  Large operations do it all the time – think of production lines, or accounts payable departments.  I liken this to stopping for gas when the tank is 3/4 full.  It’s just unnecessary.  Waiting until you have an 1/8 of a tank or even when the empty light comes on (gasp) is more efficient.  Batching work related tasks is more efficient too.  Here are tasks I like to batch:

  • Paying Bills – I pay them on the 1st and 15th of the month.  I don’t think about it at any other time.  I started by putting reminders on my calendar, but now it’s automatic and I just do it.
  • Laundry – 2 big loads twice a week and it’s done.  We have enough cloths that we don’t run out.  I love not thinking about laundry the other days of the week.
  • Phone Calls – not time essential ones, but the annoying ones when you know you’ll have to wait on hold.  Mine get done once a week, and I plan other simple tasks I can do while holding.

Be Ruthless – Saying NO to things that aren’t critical opens up space for the most important things.  Sometimes getting frustrated is the best thing I can do for myself. I look at the mail and just throw all the stuff I didn’t ask for right into the big recycling can.  I look at my email and delete things that just don’t matter. I go through my inbox and pull out the work that has to be done and ditch the rest.  I find people are truly most effective when they remove what isn’t so important – and sometimes the only way to make a big enough impact is to be ruthless. Where can you be ruthless this week?

Try these techniques and see if things are just a bit easier.  I bet you’ll say YES!

 

Author: Sue FrostDocument Management Filing General Goal Setting Procrastination Productivity Time Management

Do you plan your your time or let life happen? : 7 Questions to help you get back on track

Have you ever made it through the week with the same To Do list you started with?
If the answer is yes, and you’d like to change that, the time has come to ask yourself some honest questions.
Emergencies happen.  People get sick.  The unexpected occurs, but not every week.  If your week ends this way more often than not, you may need a new approach.
Try asking yourself the following questions:
1) Do you keep a running list of “To Do” items?
The number one reason things don’t get done, is that people forget to do them.  Well, maybe that’s just my house.  However, I promise this will help you too.  Notice I say one list, not many lists.
If you’re tech savvy, great.  There are more application than I can shake a stick at.  I love my iPhone Reminder List.
If that’s not for you, a good old binder will do the trick.  From that list, move weekly and daily tasks to your calendar.
2) Are your goals broken down into easily understood tasks that can carried out a few at a time?
This will ensure things get done.  Often we just stall out when we don’t know what to do next.
3) Is saying yes to everything your Kryptonite?
Remember the emergency airplane evacuation analogy.  In order to be of use to others, you must first save yourself.  Depending on propriety, learn to say, “No,” “Not right now,” or “I’m trying to meet a deadline.  Can this wait?”
4) Are you a procrastinator?
Most of us are, some are just better than others. There’s a fun book on the subject called Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy.  The book includes lots of suggestions to get moving.  As the title suggests, sometimes it’s best to get those icky tasks done first.  It makes the rest of the day so much brighter.
5) How much time do you spend reading and responding to phone calls and e-mail?
Try limiting e-mail to two times per day.  Turn the audible alert off too.  Limit calls to what you feel is realistic without impacting your business.  If you’re in the middle of reading or analyzing a project that requires critical thinking and you stop to respond to something else, it takes eight to twelve minutes to achieve critical thought again.  It’s more efficient for you to finish what you started.  Then, return the call when you are able to focus on the caller’s needs.  This also minimizes mistakes.
6) Do you spend a lot of time looking for things?
An inefficient filing system (whether electronic or paper) can be a productivity killer.  Investing just a few hours of time in a simple system will pay you back may times over.  You should be able to put your hands on information in minutes.
7) Have you ever been called a perfectionist?  (I have and I was quite pleased until realizing it wasn’t a compliment.)
It has pros and cons.  Here are some examples of it backfiring:  Wanting things perfect can cause a backlog of filing. A perfectionist may only file when he or she has time for the whole project.  A perfectionist can cause projects to stall out while they gather all the information to make the best decision.  Perfectionism can also cause missed deadlines due to overworking details.  At a certain point efficiency is lost.  My motto for the true perfectionist is, done is better than perfect.
I’ve heard it said that no one gets to the end of their life and wishes they worked more.  So, use your time wisely and mindfully.  Save it for friends and family.  If anything gets in your way, consider hiring a Professional Organizer.
Author: Naomi CookFamily General Goal Setting Home Organizing Time Management

Forming A Habit

In the spirit of the New Year, I’m here to answer the burning question that you may have…sorry, it’s not the recipe to my homemade cookies…that will remain a mystery, even to my colleagues at NAPO-GPC who I have baked them for!    The true question is, how long does it really take for a habit to form?   Do a Google search, like I did and you’ll find many different answers.   If you’re like me, you won’t get to page 2 of your search, as you just want the clear answer!

It’s the same with New Year’s resolutions.  We want what we want and we want it now!  Waiting is a difficult thing, in this age where technology is fast but we want it to be even faster.    Frustrations abound when there isn’t any instant gratification and hence people give their resolutions up so quickly.

So, what is that answer to: how long does it really take for a habit to form?  Well, honestly, there isn’t a magic number.  The consensus from the Google answers is that it takes between 21 and 28 days.  I know, that can seem daunting, but there are ways to keep your goals and still have fun.

When it comes to organizing, (and I’m assuming that’s one of your goals because you are reading a blog on a site in which we help people get organized!) start small.  Have you heard the quote from Francis of Assisi, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!”?  If you push yourself and do too much before you’re ready for it, then you may feel like giving up.  Try these simple methods to help you get organized a little bit every day, when you might not even think to, so that before you know it, it may just become your favorite habit!  Well, a close second, maybe? Ha ha!

1)      TV Commercial Breaks – Use these 2-3 minute chunks of time during your favorite shows to organize a shelf or a drawer.

2)     On a Phone Call – You know those people in your life who just like to talk your ear off on the phone!  You don’t need to neglect them, just put the caller on speakerphone and you have your hands free to straighten up a closet, hang up clothes or put away laundry.

3)     While Cooking Dinner – Use this time to straighten up your kitchen counters and go through junk mail.

-Or-

4)      Just pick any time!  Use a timer, either a good old kitchen timer or the one from your smart phone and set it for 15 minutes.  See what you can get done in that time in the area of your choice and if you feel motivated to do more, then do it!  If not, then don’t!

One final tip is to keep a tote or basket handy, in a central location, for each member of the household.  As you are organizing, you are bound to find items that belong to others in their bedrooms or in other rooms.  Once a day, make sure that the items from the basket are brought to each respective area by the person it belongs to.  With the new tips you’ve learned, you can teach everyone else in the family how to organize just a “bite” at a time too!

Author: Ellen TozziGoal Setting Holidays Project Management

Make Lists and Check Them Twice

Did you ever wonder how Santa gets so much done?  The secret to his success is making lists and checking them twice.

 

Why are lists beneficial?

–       Getting the ideas out of your head helps you to think more clearly

–       Writing (or typing) encourages a commitment to follow through

–       Reviewing lists makes prioritizing tasks easier

–       Categorizing tasks and listing baby steps help to prevent overwhelm

 

There’s much to be done during the holidays and lists can be a lifesaver.  The information is valuable for the current year and a great reference for holidays to come.  Create a holiday journal or use software, such as Excel spreadsheets, to stay on top of your tasks.  If others you live with use your computer, set up a password for the electronic document to keep gift-giving ideas a secret.

 

What to keep track of:

–       A timeline, by week, with what you plan on accomplishing, and when

–       A holiday card or eCard list – noting which style card you sent

–       Decorating – themes, details, etc.

–       Gifts – people and charities and what you plan to give

–       A shopping list – include stores, eRetailers and what you hope to purchase

–       Party planning  – menus, guests, grocery lists, etc.

–       Post-holiday review – note what worked and what didn’t

 

May this be a low-stress holiday season filled with high joy; and may you accomplish your goals with clarity and ease.

Author: Kelly GalfandGoal Setting Productivity

Chart Your Own Map to Discovery

October twelfth marks Christopher Columbus’ birthday. He set out to discover new Trade Routes to Asia, but ended up in the Caribbean. Roadblocks and mistakes diverted his initial path and his journey took longer than expected. He kept going – always moving forward – closer to his target (even when his target changed). This concept of forward momentum is very important in life – so is setting goals. Goals provide motivation. Motivation keeps us taking steps.

If we use Columbus’ journey as our Goal Setting Road Map we learn to:

  • allow ourselves to chart new territory
  • be okay with changing directions
  • have an end goal in mind
  • re-evaluate and adapt along our journey
  • surround ourselves with supporters and tune-out naysayers
  • recognize when we’ve reached a successful stopping point
  • celebrate our discoveries

Take organizational goals: Sometimes your goal is to reclaim space in a spare bedroom. You think the only way to achieve that is to empty the whole room and start from scratch. But, as you work, you realize it’s actually the corner where the bills get paid that mucks up the process. You notice that entering the room facing the ironing board is depressing; small shifts in orienting stuff can make a huge difference. Or let’s say you are overwhelmed with family photos and you want to ‘organize them.’ Your first goal might be to store them in photo safe boxes. Along the way you decide to scan a portion and preserve them electronically as a screen-saver montage. While sorting sentimental batches you get caught up reconnecting with family. That’s okay if you stick with the goal of getting the photos organized and continue to weed out the unnecessary shots. As long as you do something with the photos you want to save, you are still moving forward.

In setting goals, you will have to plan a route to achieve success.

You will want to find like-minded travelers along the road.

When you get stuck, don’t get discouraged… stay focused and keep your eyes on the horizon.

Amaze yourself with what you discover!

Author: Ellen FayeChallenging Disorganization General Goal Setting Organizing Procrastination Productivity Project Management Time Management

Finding it Hard to Get Started on That Project?

Everyone procrastinates sometimes.  It only becomes problematic when procrastination is the norm.  Reasons for procrastination include perfectionism, overwhelm, over-analysis, and lack of planning.  What can you do when you have a project that needs to get done?

Clear the Decks:

  • Plan ahead and get your routine and critical tasks taken care of.
  • Schedule time to work on your project.  Be sure you plan enough time to get a fair amount of the project work done. Starting and stopping is hard; it takes a lot of discipline and wastes a lot of time and energy.

Make a Plan:

  • Write down the steps of the project on Post-its – one step per Post-it.
  • Put the post-it’s in a logical order.
  • You now have a plan.

Make it Fun:

  • It’s ok to alternate fun parts with more tedious ones.
  • You don’t have to start at the beginning either – if the first step is too hard or too boring, start on another part of the project.

Get Ready:

  • Pull all related material together (start this a week or two early), when you sit down to work, you’ll have your materials at hand.

Get Set:

  • When it’s time to get down to work, do what you can to minimize interruptions:
    • close out your email and Facebook
    • Forward your phone to voicemail
    • Clear the clutter off your desk
    • Close your office door.

Go:

  • Jump in and do it:
    • Know that as hard as it is to start it’s worse if you don’t get the project done or miss your deadline.
    • Don’t worry about perfection, if you never get started, you’ll never get finished.