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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 FayeDigital Apps Productivity Time Management

My Four Favorite Productivity Tech Tools

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:

  • Favorite lists:  books to read, restaurants to go to (each city has its own note), wines to try, nail polish colors I like
  • Numbers: Frequent Flyer Numbers, Insurance numbers, Clothing/Shoe sizes my kids wear
  • Maps: Pictures of how to get from point to point
  • Things to Buy: Pictures of my odd size light bulb for my desk or the humidifier filter I only have to buy once a year
  • Lists of names: friend’s kids/ grandkids/ husbands names, etc.

WHY I LOVE GOOGLE CALENDAR

  • I can color code it and see exactly what’s happening when.
  • I can share certain sub-calendars with family members and professional colleagues so everyone knows what’s going on when.
  • It’s in the cloud – I can’t lose it and I can EASILY access it from my desktop, laptop, Android phone, iPad as well as my son’s iPhone. And in the event that I don’t have access to one of my devices, I can EASILY access it from any of your devices too!
  • I can print out hard copies for others to reference.
  • I don’t need multiple calendars which means as long as I remember to check it, I never miss an appointment or double book myself.
  • It’s free and safe and easy to learn and use.

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:

  • When writing an email I often find I can explain what I’m trying to say much faster with a picture. I can write a bit, snip a bit, write a bit, snip a bit – and get my message across clearly and simply.
  • If there is something on screen that I want to remember, I can take a snip and drop it right into an Evernote. I recently took a snip of a map from the train exit to a client’s apartment. Now I don’t have to worry about a map – I get off the train, pull up my Evernote and have directions how to walk to her house.
  • If I’m writing instructions or a how-to for a client, a quick snip helps communicate next steps.
  • If I’m suggesting certain products for a client, a snip along with the link makes the suggestions more tangible.

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:

  • It’s a cloud-based tool that I can use to capture tasks immediately – I always have my list with me!
  • It mirrors my manual system, so I only have to think one way
  • It sort to-dos by priority and/or due date
  • I can make detailed notes in the task
  • It can be viewed on my desk-top, laptop, iPad, iPhone or Android phone
  • It has a great repeating function
  • I can set reminders.

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.

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.