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Author: Amanda JeffersonGoal Setting Productivity Spiritual and Holistic Time Management Uncategorized

Fun & Easy

Is it Fun & Easy? The surprising little question that can bring more clarity and joy to our businesses and our lives.

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.

Breaking free

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.

Discovering my values

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):

  • Honesty
  • Courage
  • Depth
  • Quiet
  • Laughter
  • Beauty

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.

Putting “fun & easy” into action

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.

  • Speaking to groups is SUPER fun and easy for me, so I do that a lot more. What’s NOT fun and easy is hosting events, so I don’t do that.
  • Writing is fun and easy for me, but all the legwork of editing, posting, and scheduling it is NOT, so I hired a virtual assistant for that.
  • Instagram is fun & easy for me, so I invest time in posting there 2-3 times a week and connecting with others. Facebook is NOT. So I don’t spend much time there at all.
  • Working one-on-one with clients is fun and easy. Scheduling and invoicing is NOT. So I use an online scheduler for that.

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.

Life-hacking the NOT so “fun & easy”

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?

Author: Kelly GalfandEmergencies Family General Goal Setting healthy living Home Organizing Procrastination Productivity Project Management Time Management Tips

Stressed Spelled Backwards is Desserts!

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:

  • On the surface, baking’s sweet “aroma-therapy” is a lift to the senses.
  • It’s a form of mindfulness forcing us to stay in the moment and be present.
  • Baking offers proof of progress; it lets us see a project through from beginning to end.

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:

  1. Planning out my day the night before factoring in daily exercise
  2. Setting timers before ANY screen tasks and computer-related work
  3. Setting self-imposed deadlines
  4. Rewarding myself for meeting those deadlines 
  5. Taking breaks to free my mind and open myself up to creativity

Here’s why I’m returning to these habits:

  • Planning always makes me more efficient. When I predict how long something will take—I challenge myself to get it done before the time is up. 
  • Timers build in accountability for being “on” and give permission to be “off.”
  • Set self-imposed (and realistic!) deadlines: they offer us an amazing boost to our sense of self and inner confidence. They also give us a healthy look to the future and make us more aware of time.
  • Earned rewards are the essential “pat on the back” that we can gift ourselves. While all rewards should not be caloric, a little baking—no stress involved—can pay off.
  • Breaks are essential to productivity, healthy living, and…when else can we bake?

I can’t take credit for figuring out…stressed spelled backwards is desserts!

Author: Ellen FayeEfficiency Productivity Time Management Tips

How Productive Leaders Reduce Inefficiencies

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.  

  1. I work from the bottom up so that if water spills out of something it’s not going to get anything below it wet.
  2. I unload in groups –the silverware into my hand and then direct to the silverware drawer
  3. I place things on the counter at the location it will be put into
  4. I unload completely, then I put away.  I’m only opening the drawer or cabinet once and I’m putting everything away at one time
  5. And I make it a game to see how fast I can do it. It’s fast and it’s done.

I waste not a moment on something as routine as unloading a dishwasher.

Now let’s apply that to our work. 

  • How can I process my email as efficiently as possible?
  • How can I keep my to-do list as streamlined as possible?
  • How can I make my meetings as effective as possible?

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.

Creating efficient systems

  1. Notice it – recognize the opportunity. Don’t assume you can be efficient without thinking about how to be more efficient
  2. Analyze the steps.   Is there a better, faster, more effective way to do something?  Can you eliminate, combine, or change the order of doing something.
  3. Do – Assess– Adjust. Try it out, practice, watch, question.  Shift, try something else. Keep modifying until you get it right.
  4. Practice and Repeat – use the system until it becomes routine and you don’t have to think about it. Watch your stopping and starting.  Stick with a task until it’s done, or at least until there is a logical stopping point. 

Sometimes having a productivity coach or organizing consultant helps. We work with our clients to help them develop the best ways to improve efficiency.  

Author: Adriane WeinbergLists Productivity Time Management

Too Much to do? How to Get More Done in Less Time.

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:

Organization

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.

Task Batching

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.

Multitasking

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.

Procrastination

Delaying inhibits productivity. Be intentional, positive and focused on your objective.

To-Do List

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.

Author: Kelly GalfandCloset Family Home Organizing Productivity Time Management Tips

Shining a Light on Labels

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!

Author: Geri Chark FrankelDigital Apps Document Management Electronic Organizing Home Office Lists Organizing Productivity Project Management Receipts Tips

Quick and Easy Ways to Let Tech Help You

Photo by Oleg Magni on Unsplash

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.

  1. Alarms on your smartphone: In the morning, as you review your plan/to do list for the day, set an alarm to ring at the point you need to gather yourself in order to leave on time NOT for an appointment time itself. You can add an additional alarm for when you need to be heading out your door.
  2. Calendar app on your smartphone: As you enter an appointment, meeting, occasion, etc., in your calendar, remember to use both alert options as reminders and set them at appropriate intervals.  For example, if the event is a party or birthday, you may want to set the first alert a week before, to allow yourself time to purchase a card and/or gift. The second alert can be for the morning of the event. 
  3. Evernote: Use it to do a brain dump of your things to do; record receipt; store your vital documents, medications list and other medical records, prepare for tax time, file client/business information, tame recipes, organize your clippings from magazines, and journal.  The possibilities are endless. You can keep photos, video, and audio files in it. This program synchs beautifully across your devices so you have this information at your fingertips.
  4. CamScanner (or Scannable): Snap photos of documents, receipts, clippings and other paperwork/labels et. al.  that you can then save as PDF files. You can send these directly into Google Docs, Dropbox, Evernote, a text message and/or an email etc. 
  5. Contacts:  The minute you get a new person’s details, take a moment and set up a contact!  Add key descriptions to help you locate that newbie at a later date. For example, if a friend tells you about the BEST landscaper in the area, after you enter the person’s name and company,  and mobile number and email address, add “Landscaper Recommended by (friend’s name) in the area where you recorded the company’s name. That way you will still be able to get that information should you forget the company’s actual name.  Use Contacts to enter usernames and passwords for accounts. (NOTE: make sure you have a 6-digit lock on your phone, as 4-digit locks are not secure enough.)

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!