About a year ago, I started asking myself a question that gave me dramatically more clarity (and joy!) in my work and life.
The question was:
Is it fun and easy?
Why did I start asking this question?
Because I was overwhelmed by the “shoulds.”
I have ALWAYS have been overwhelmed by those blasted shoulds, but I felt particularly overwhelmed as a new entrepreneur. Suddenly, I, alone, had to dictate how I would spend my precious time.
Being an entrepreneur can be incredibly freeing. But, there’s also no road map. No clear strategy. No “right” answers.
After a year of trying to do all of the “shoulds,” I signed up for an online course called 31 Days to Flow. I had learned about “flow” previously in my career, and I was intrigued about how I could apply it in this new phase.
Essentially, “flow” is a state where you feel totally in the zone. You don’t notice the time passing. You feel energized. You feel like you’re excelling at what you are doing or you’re seriously enjoying the process.
(Doesn’t that sound better than “should”??)
The course instructor asked us to spend almost two weeks identifying our core values. I was somewhat dismayed at this request since I had spent countless hours (days!) in my previous corporate and non-profit life identifying values. What?! Values?! But I signed up for flow!!
Alas, I really liked the course instructor, and I had paid for the darn class already, so I obliged.
The results ended up being one of the most game-changing exercises I have ever done.
After much soul-searching, ranking, debating and word-smithing, I came up with a list of 5 (soon to be 6) values that would become my new compass for EVERYTHING that I do – not just in work, but in life.
My values are (in order of importance):
These six simple words unlocked new wisdom about what I seek in life – in others, in my work, in my parenting, and so much more.
I could bore you for hours on the significance of each of these. So let me save you from that and instead offer a few examples. “Depth” alone explained why certain friendships filled me up, while others depleted me. “Quiet” explained why I turn into a crazed person from those hysterical Snickers commercials if I don’t have some quiet time in my day. “Beauty” came later, as an antidote to a world that often feels out-of-control.
Our instructor promised us that if we began to follow those things that aligned with our values, we would find more flow. More fun. More ease.
And so it was.
The question “Is it fun and easy?” became a shortcut to test if something “checked off my value boxes.”
I made some significant changes as a result.
By following the path of “fun and easy,” I have found more flow, ease, and joy. I’ve accepted the radical notion that I can follow what energizes me.
I know what you’re thinking. Not EVERYTHING can be fun and easy. So true, my friend. So true.
Luckily, for those things that aren’t fun and easy, we can often eliminate them, delegate them, or find creative ways to make them just a bit more joyful.
Starting today, how can YOU find more “fun & easy” in your work and life?
While sheltering-in-place we’ve been spending a lot more time baking. And wouldn’t you know: Stressed Spelled Backwards is: Desserts!
I saw that catchy phrase after delivering my 5th batch of muffins in April. To avoid gaining the dreaded Covid-15 (think Freshman-15) I delivered Tupperwares to my neighbor, who appreciates my zero-sugar recipes.
With my last delivery of cranberry-sweetened pumpkin millet muffins, I wrote “sorry for dumping my stress-baked goodies on your doorstep.” She texted back “TY” with a link to “Stress-baking is a real thing!”
My 3 favorite therapeutic benefits to baking:
This “proof of progress” is where I want to focus.
I don’t know about you, but I am:
• losing a sense of what day it is
• not as productive as I was before Covid-19
• feeling less accomplished despite feeling almost as busy
So I reflected on the tools I used before Covid-19:
Here’s why I’m returning to these habits:
I can’t take credit for figuring out…stressed spelled backwards is desserts!
When I think of reducing inefficiencies I think of when I was in college and learned about the time and motion studies of the 1950’s. I envision Lucy and Ethel wrapping chocolate on the production line. And then I think that no one wants to live life with so much constraint that we are more machine than human. However, so many of my clients tell me they want to be more efficient.
I am a big fan of putting rote tasks on autopilot so that our energy can be put towards creative process and enjoying life. I am embarrassed to tell you this (but will because perhaps it might help) but I’m always looking at how to do things in the fewest steps.
I will exemplify this with a task we all do – emptying the dishwasher. I’ve observed many people empty the dishwasher – I do it differently. And I typically get it done in the time it takes to brew 2 or 3 cups of Keurig coffee.
I waste not a moment on something as routine as unloading a dishwasher.
I’ve blogged about all of this and I’ve linked the above questions to those posts. What I’m addressing here however is how to create systems and processes to be most efficient, streamlined, and effective.
Sometimes having a productivity coach or organizing consultant helps. We work with our clients to help them develop the best ways to improve efficiency.
Why are some people able to get more done in less time? What’s their secret?
No secret. They’ve mastered how to manage their time.
What is Time Management?
Simply put, it means to effectively manage your time to do what needs to be done on time. Most people feel overscheduled, do not plan their time well, spend too much time on unimportant tasks and so on. It’s not a time issue; it’s an organizing issue. In most cases, proper time management is lacking.
“I definitely am going to take a course on time management…just as soon as I can work it into my schedule.” ~ Louis Boone
To maximize productivity, you must know and apply effective time-management systems and tools that work for you. Here are some proven ways:
If you’re disorganized, you cannot maximize your productivity. Your first step is to get organized.
Eat That Frog
“The first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog.” ~ Mark Twain
The “frog” is your toughest, most important task. Twain’s point was to get it done first each morning and the rest of the day should be easier.
This means scheduling time to do similar tasks. For example, reply to emails from 2:00-3:00.
Active v. Productive
There’s a huge difference between busy and productive.
“Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.” ~ Alfred Montapert
I recommend watching this three-minute video, which nails it. It’s meant for older folks with ADHD but everybody can relate.
Forget it. According to Forbes.com, 98% of us don’t multitask well. We’re actually just shifting between tasks which takes our brain time to constantly refocus. Studies show multitasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%. However, I say it works when one task is mindless and your focus is on the other one.
Delaying inhibits productivity. Be intentional, positive and focused on your objective.
Use one! It’s critical to note tasks in one place, on paper or your device, so you don’t forget.
To begin, implement one or two tips. Practice until they’re routine. Repeat. There’s no shortcut but, over time, you’ll accomplish more in less time. That means more time to spend at work, with family, to read a book, do yoga or on whatever you want!
© 2019 Adriane Weinberg. All rights reserved.
As an organizer, I always follow my client’s lead and only suggest we work on areas THEY identify. Every once in a while, though, I notice an irritating situation that could easily be solved with a label.
This scenario came up a month ago while working in someone’s dressing area: her space has a number of zones with specific task lighting tied to a central panel.
As we were leaving the space, she went to turn off her make-up area light. Not knowing which switch controlled which light, she ended up flicking every switch, one by one, until she found the ONE she needed. Her heavy sigh told me this issue is chronic.
So we fixed her problem — right then and there.
Now, if you know the story of the cobbler whose kids went barefoot, you will understand that just because I see “problem areas” in other people’s homes all day, this does not guarantee that I am a ruthless problem-solver in my own home.
Spoiler alert: not every shelf, bin or basket in my home is labeled!
Truth is, not every shelf, basket or bin NEEDS to be labeled. If it is obvious what it is and if no one is having an issue finding what they need, then there is no problem. But confusion breeds stress.
That same day, I went home and noticed myself doing the same thing to two of our three kitchen switches. That’s when I decided to do for myself what I do for others! So I labeled our switchplate. It’s been a game changer. The only thing I had to tweak was what I called them; my daughter did not think “door” made sense so we revised the label and now everyone is happy.
Our kitchen is the hub of our home, but now that the weather is warmer, we are spending a lot more time on our front porch.
Fast forward to the other day, when my husband texted me to make sure I turned off the front pathway lights. Our guests had stayed late the night before, and he didn’t want to waste electricity. In the daylight, I could not see if the lights were on or off… Couple that confusion with another multi-switch panel, and my stress level was rising. Without a partner to check the outdoor fixture’s bulb, it was more exercise than I expected so early in the morning. I figured it out on my own, turned the pathway lights off and did what any organized person would do: I labeled each switch.
This time, my family approved of every label AND my daughter commented the next morning how helpful it was to know which switch controlled which hallway light. She had stayed up later than all — not unusual for teenagers — and knowing that we sleep with our door open at night to give our dog freedom, she didn’t want to wake us with a bright light at the top of the stairs.
My labels helped protect my investment of time, saved our daughter from waking us, and granted me an uninterrupted night’s sleep!
Think of where a label or two could help your household function a little better or brighter, or maybe even ensure a better night’s sleep for you.
Banish household confusion with a label or two; it’s illuminating!
First, let me confess: I am NOT what you might call an “Early Adopter” when it comes to technology.
I need to know that an app/program has been around a long time, is secure and is fast and easy to learn and use.
Here are 5 tech tools that meet those requirements. Use them daily to free up mental clutter, to run on time with appointments and projects, and to help you access information quickly.
You will enjoy the benefits of a calmer daily routine and the ability to access information speedily if you take a little effort to use one or more of these tech tools!