When I think about what makes me most productive I think about technology. When you use technology well it really does make things better. Below I introduce you to my favorite tech-tools. Consider how using these tools can make things easier for you:
AN ELEPHANT NEVER FORGETS… AND NEITHER DOES EVERNOTE
Imagine 1000 sticky notes that are organized and available at the click of a mouse. Meet Evernote. Evernote is a cloud based application that can be accessed from just about anywhere – your PC, your Mac, your iPhone, your iPad and/or your Android phone. And it’s FREE! Go to www.evernote.com and download it. Play with it. Basically, all you need to know to get started is that you make a note – give it a title and Evernote saves it. Then when you want to find it you can search on any word in the note and it will pull it up for you. Later, when you get more comfortable with it, you can take pictures into your notes, cut and paste links and photos into your notes, and even do voice to text input. Here are some ideas about how I use mine:
WHY I LOVE GOOGLE CALENDAR
A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
In the olden days of computing there was a quick little function key to capture what was on the screen – whatever you saw on your computer you could print or copy. In the last few years someone realized how helpful that was and gave us a new way to capture what we see on the screen as a picture. There are a few programs that do this. For the PC, Microsoft offers the Snipping Tool, for Mac you can snip by selecting Command + Shift + 4. Many other Screenshot Software Programs exist, and with a quick Google search you can find one to match your computer. But how does it save you time? Here is how I use my Snipping Tool:
A screen capture tool is one of those things that you wouldn’t miss if you didn’t use, but once you have it you wouldn’t want to ever live without.
IS GETTING IT ALL DONE A CHALLENGE?
Have you ever considered an electronic task list? I use Toodledo, though there are many other products “out-there” that my colleagues really like too. Here is why I like Toodledo:
Now, I know you are thinking it sounds complex, but I’ll let you in on a little secret – I only use its most basic features and it works really well for me. Also – I don’t use this exclusively – I still keep a manual to-do list. But, for the reasons listed above I find it to be a tremendous help in ensuring my most important work gets done – and just like you – getting it all done is a challenge.
WARNING: DON’T TRY THESE ALL AT ONCE! Pick one and try it on. See if it fits. Once you’ve integrated it into your life, try another.
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:
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!
I am your constant companion.
I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden.
I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.
I am completely at your command.
Half the things you do might just as well be turned over to me
and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.
I am easily managed – you must merely be firm with me.
Show me exactly how you want something done;
and after a few lessons I will do it automatically.
I am the servant of all great individuals and, alas, of all failures as well.
Those who are great, I have made great.
Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision
of a machine, plus the intelligence of a human.
You may run me for profit or run me for ruin – it makes no difference to me.
Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will place the world at your feet.
Be easy with me and I will destroy you.
I am called Habit.
Habits, once created, can be one’s best friend. Some people believe they weren’t “born organized” and therefore will never be organized. The good news is that being organized is a LEARNED skill and gets easier when practiced. It becomes even easier when the skills become HABITS.
What kind of habits?
– PUTTING THINGS AWAY instead of putting them down
– Keeping “LIKE” THINGS TOGETHER near where you use them
– ASSIGNING HOMES FOR EVERYTHING in order to find them easily
– Assessing WHAT’S IMPORTANT, rather than what’s urgent or feels good
Carve out a bit of time each day to work on making a desired process a habit. Yes, it requires self discipline in the beginning, but before long it will become, as the riddles states, your constant companion and greatest helper!
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:
Make a Plan:
Make it Fun:
People always ask if my home is perfect, and I say it functions perfectly. I’ll let you read between the lines there. Striving for perfection can be an obstacle in itself. Most people are surprised to learn that perfectionism is a common reason for disorganization.
Common problems with perfectionism and organization:
• Perfectionists might say to themselves, “If I don’t have time to do it right, I’ll wait until I do have time.”
• Waiting for a “good” time doesn’t work. The time will never present itself. You need to schedule it.
• Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fill the time allowed for it.
• The law of diminishing indicates that the more we hone, tweak, and perfect the less efficient and effective we become. We also neglect other important projects.
• The project waits, grows, and becomes a big, hairy monster.
It’s not important to do everything perfectly. In fact, if you think of organization as a spectrum, perfection is one end and extreme disorder is on the other. A healthy balance is really the best middle ground. Always having every dish put away, every toy in the toy box, and every surface clear is unrealistic. The important things to remember are:
• Every item should have a home.
• Everyone needs to know where those homes are located.
• Storing things closest to where they are used simplifies retrieval and return.
• Set limits on how much is enough. “More” can undermine organization and make maintenance more work.
• Storing like items together in containers helps to stay on top of inventory.
• Planning a time to clean-up is part of every project, not something we do another time.
Perfectionism paralyzes action. Done is better than perfect!
The next time you feel paralyzed by perfection, remember the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing you can do is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
A former perfectionist
Time Management has changed. It is no longer about getting it all done, it’s about making smart choices about how to spend your time. Time Management theorists have been discussing methods for identifying what to do next for years. While in concept it would be great to have these options, all too often we spend our days putting out fires and doing what we have to do. By setting priorities we make better choices about which tasks we spend our time on. This results in fewer “fires,” greater satisfaction and better results. Over the years I’ve found the following process helps my clients in clarifying priorities:
1. SET GOALS – this helps you to become clear on what is really important to you. The process doesn’t need to take a long time. I suggest to my clients that they create one action statement for each relevant life area such as family, business, self-care, community, leisure, etc.
2. MATCH TASKS TO GOALS – when making a decision about if you should do something or not, determine if doing the task will assist you in meeting your goals. By thinking about the task in context to what is important to you/your goals, you will gain better insight and make better decisions. You might also notice:
3. CREATE A FILTER LIST – before you say yes to a task, a position, or an opportunity run it through a list you’ve created for yourself. There are no standard questions that should be on your list – this is your list, you get to create it and you get to evaluate it. What is important is that you are clear in determining what is important to you. Here are some questions you may want to include:
4. BECOME OK ABOUT SAYING “NO” – not just to others, but also to yourself. Giving up opportunities is hard, but never accomplishing anything important is harder. If you want to be true to yourself, saying “NO” is an important part of the process.
The final step is determining just how much time, energy and effort you want to put into a task you’ve decided is important to do. For this, we go to 80/20 rule or Pareto’s Principle – you get 80% of the results in 20% of the time. To get 100% of the results takes 80% longer. That means you can get it done fairly well in 1/5th of the time. For example I could write a really good blog post in an hour, or I could write a perfect blog post in 5 hours. I need to decide which things need to be perfect and which things are sufficient when they are really good. You can decide that too – that’s all part of setting priorities. I hope my 80% effort has inspired you to make smarter decisions about how you spend your time.