Brought To You By Emily Parks
Productivity Consultant at Organize For Success, LLC...
Helping You Make Every Minute Matter!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Redefining Productivity for Greater Success - Work-Life Integration Is Realistic Way to Tackle What Matters Most

One of 6 tenants to productivity being "efficiently working at effectively achieving desired results" is how work-life integration is a realistic way to tackle what matters most. In January, I looked at what it means to "be productive" or "boost productivity"; today, I'll do the last of 6 deep dives into specifics for redefining productivity by providing ways to implement work-life integration.

People often refer to work-life balance; yet, I believe work-life integration is more realistic. In thinking about "balance", I see a scale or seesaw, forcing a perception of costs needed for success, but I do not believe my "work" competes with my "life", seeing how they regularly complement each other instead. Although balance would be static, life is certainly not and requires fluid solutions to address one's ever-changing priorities for work, home, community or society and the private realm of mind, body and spirit. I help my clients recognize how any element we choose to have in our lives adds value to each of the other elements and how harmony is possible. As the various elements of life are layers on top of each other, the emphasis needed for each element continually fluctuates, and each layer adds value to the others, making the total greater than any part.

Some people refer to it as "getting in the zone" while others call it "being on a roll". No matter what you call it, enabling all elements of life to better each other helps you benefit from greater effectiveness so you ultimately perform at your best. Research shows you can learn to get and stay on a roll by tweaking a few simple aspects of how you handle the various aspects of life.

Stew Friedman has been at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, since 1984 where he is the Practice Professor of Management and founded the Wharton Leadership Program. Known as the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, Friedman's research focuses a good deal on the interactions between all the elements encompassed in life: work, home, community or society as well as our own minds, bodies and spirits. Whether in my own life or working with my clients, I've seen great validity in Friedman's finding that "you don't have to sacrifice, tradeoff or balance to have a sane, productive and meaningful work life and home life". The mashup of many layers in life may fluctuate over time, but addressing the priorities of those various elements leads to more successful results, focusing on the three core principles of what the Wharton School refers to as the Total Leadership Approach: be real, be whole and be innovative. As Friedman explains, "To be real is to act with authenticity by clarifying what's important to you. To be whole is to act with integrity by recognizing how the different parts of your life affect one another. All this examination allows you to be innovative."

Over the past few weeks, we've done deep dives on the importance of time being limited, being clear on priorities, proactively planning to best invest time, limit distractions and utilize all available resources; it is work-life integration that pulls together each tenant of productivity for your greatest success.

Looking at your own life, would you like to utilize this integration, harmony and efficiency to fuel more powerful outcomes? Here are a few simple steps to get you started:
  • Plan for all elements of life in the same daily, weekly and monthly game plans. You are one person, whether at home, at work, volunteering in the community or taking time to care for yourself. You can't be in more than one place at the same time, and multi-tasking prohibits achieving the best possible results. Still, there are only 1,4440 minutes in each day, and you must allocate your investment of time as powerfully as possible to address the ever-changing priorities from all elements of your life. With a clear awareness of your priorities, you can include actions that address goals for all of those most important priorities, rather than segmenting your life, and you'll be able to focus on activities that will address your needs in multiple elements at the same time. Instead of compartmentalizing activities by individual elements of your life, schedule your priorities, and bring your priorities together so multiple goals can be accomplished simultaneously.
  • Be creative with simple changes that address multiple priorities at once. With a clarity of which priorities are most important and urgent at any moment in time, you can plan actions to address more than one priority at once; as Friedman explains, aim for "4-way wins, (where there's) improved performance at work, at home, in the community and for yourself." Enhanced productivity and satisfaction come with small changes that are under your control while greater efficiency comes from addressing the priorities from multiple elements at once, which means achieving more of your various different goals concurrently. For example, walking your dog meets your goals to live a healthier life as well as take care of your pet; however, if you brainstorm a big pitch for work or listen to a recording of a book you're reading at the same time, you can accomplish even more via this work-life integration tactic. Likewise, attending a business conference is another excellent example for addressing multiple elements at the same time: you're learning new information, networking with other professionals and visiting new locations.
  • Do great work. When you are good at completing assigned tasks, whether at work, at home or in the community, you better position yourself to do something for yourself or another element of your life as a complement, having those from whom you need buy-in be more receptive to your "why" because you were present and focused during the time they needed you to be in achieving goals related to them. When you perform well as needed, those around you are more understanding about how addressing other priorities will empower you to do even better work and better help the team in the future. As explained by Jennifer Dulski, President & COO of, "If (others) know they can trust you to deliver high-quality results... they'll be less concerned with when and where you get that work done", but you must prove yourself. Turnover, absenteeism and disgruntled workers are costly; therefore, when your work-life integration leads to the business achieving its goals, more options become available to you.
  • Offer flexibility as a "temporary experiment". When you frame how your solution benefits the entire team, explain how it will be regularly evaluated and can be discarded if it just doesn't work out as hoped. Then, when you succeed, achieving enhanced productivity with greater outputs, everyone will support the continuation of the tactics in your solution.
  • Acknowledge how the resources around you can help. As we discussed last week, it is imperative to utilize all available resources, whether streamlining your workflow processes, creating an organized workspace, hiring consultants whose expertise enhances what you already know or do, outsourcing what needs to be done but not necessarily by you, implementing boundaries or taking advantage of existing tech tools. When you can pull in resources that help address priority goals for multiple elements of your life, it's all the more efficient, effective and, therefore, productive. 
  • Focus on outcomes over activities. Rather than doing things you think you are "supposed" to do, have specific goals mapped out for your week and incorporate actions that will drive those desired results. As I'm planning for all elements of life, I use my Weekly Strategy Session and Daily Wrap-Ups to create a game plan for what particular activities will fuel my desired outcomes and help me stay on track for successfully achieving the results I want or need. By focusing my actions on achieving my desired outcomes, I know whether I'm being successful.
  • Control what you can control. Only you are the boss of you and can control the fate of your week. Life will throw you curve balls, but you choose how to react and with what attitude you face challenges. How much or how little guilt you experience in any element really is in your control, just as you control with what actions you respond to what occurs around you.
  • Complete a regular audit of your time. Experiencing burnout is usually due to a misalignment between your goals, priorities or values and your actions. On a daily, weekly and monthly basis, make sure your actions are consistent with your values, supporting the fulfillment of your goals in whichever life elements are highest priorities currently. For example, are you attending meetings you don't really need to be in just so you can be seen there? If you have trouble staying on track alone, consider incorporating an accountability partner in your efforts, giving you someone to talk through situations where it is more challenging to align your actions with your priorities. Since our individual circumstances changes at different stages in our lives, the percent of each day that needs to be devoted to each element of life will vary, meaning we must keep our focus fluid, and regular reviews of how well you are aligning your actions with your priorities will aid your efforts. 
As you look at the various elements of your life, including work, home, community or society as well as mind, body and spirit, are you integrating those different layers into a mashup that drives harmony, satisfaction, greater outputs and better productivity? Are you pulling the various tenants of productivity (limited time, clear priorities, proactive planning, eliminating distractions and utilizing all available resources) together for work-life integration that fuels your desired results? If not, what simple changes can you make for more success?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Redefining Productivity for Greater Success - It Is Imperative to Utilize All Available Resources

One of 6 tenants to productivity being "efficiently working at effectively achieving desired results" is how it is imperative to utilize all available resources. In January, I looked at what it means to "be productive"; today, I'll do the fifth of 6 deep dives into specifics for redefining productivity, offering ways you can utilize all available resources for greater success.

When I refer to the resources or tools for your greater success, I never limit that discussion to technology. As you are filling your productivity toolbox, consider streamlining your workflow processes, creating an organized workspace in which you know where things are stored, hire consultants whose expertise enhances what you already know or do, outsource what needs to be done but not necessarily by you to employees or service professionals (including house cleaners and personal chefs), implement boundaries appropriate for your circumstances and

Still, in today's world, technology often plays a big role in how we get things done. Take time to evaluate whether paper or electronic tools might better meet your specific needs, taking into consideration your personality, your existing workflows, where you feel like you are losing time and the expectations of those with whom you work (your supervisor, your team members, your clients, your vendors, etc). Writing out meeting notes, tasks and time commitments on paper can aid in remembering those details; however, electronic alternatives have the benefit of automatic carryover, adding reminders and scheduling recurrences as needed, which can be beneficial for certain individuals. I also find the Time and Space Style Inventory enlightening when determining what sort of resources would be the best fit for any particular individual.

Although Three Dog Night claims "One is the loneliest number", I contend that one is the most powerful number for being productive. As you outline resources to implement, whether paper or electronic, keep in mind the power of one: one calendar for personal and professional commitments, one running data dump of all tasks that funnels into one daily to-do list, one address book for all contacts' information, one set of naming conventions for all files (paper, electronic, email), one place for all the information you must remember as well as reference and one strategy session to plan your week that is maintained with one daily wrap-up at the end of each day. Having one of each better ensures your content is kept up-to-date, you know what needs to be done when, nothing falls through the cracks and you don't get double-booked.

Consider what tools you are using to meet each of these needs and fill in what holes exist as you're working to get things done:
  • How do you block out web and app distractions? When hopping online for research, writing or social media, it's easy to get distracted and lose time. Limit your access for greater focus and more efficient results by using tools like Flipd, GrooveOtter, KeepMeOut, RescueTime, SelfControl and StayFocused.
  • How do you make it easier to set meetings? If you are trying to pull together a group of people, every individual will have different requests for when and where to meet. Instead of opening dialogue with everyone to schedule a meeting, enter options that work for you and let those you want to attend vote on which option works for the majority. Choose from tools like Doodle or Vyte for what best meets your meeting setting needs.
  • Are you able to seamlessly update contacts? People change jobs, email providers, mailing addresses and more; as we're inundated with information, make keeping up more feasible by automating updating your records via an assistant like EasilyDo, EverContact, FullContact or Sync.ME.
  • What do you use for cloud-based back-ups? Computers crash. Fires can destroy all your devices. Emergencies happen. It's not a matter of "if" but "when" your technology will die, but you can be prepared with automated remote storage. Simply "set it and forget it" with a tool like Backblaze, Carbonite, CrashPlan, IDrive or Mozy.
  • How do you control an overflowing inbox? Email can be less time-consuming when you send fewer messages out, unsubscribe from those you are no longer reading and choose to process (rather than check) newly received emails; however, don't stop there. Implement tools to take better control of your email like Airmail, Boomerang, Contactually, Mailstrom, SaneBox, Sortd, Spark and
  • What do you use to store your passwords? As our list of passwords grows, it can become increasingly difficult to remember them all, particularly as components to include vary and with how often they must be updated. Auto-select, retain and autofill logins with a password manager like Dashlane, LastPass, RoboForm, SplashID and 1Password.
  • How can you automate more functionality? Automation is a form of delegation where you delegate to technology and can massively expand how much you can get done concurrently. No one can do everything alone, especially all at once; however, automation tools let things get done while you put your efforts into other, hands-on tasks. Set what rules apply to your needs in automation tools like IFTTT, Podbox, Zapier and social media managers such as Buffer, Edgar, FalconHootsuite, SocialOomph and Sprout Social.
Fill your productivity toolbox with the best tools for achieving specific goals and, then, be sure to utilize all resources available for your success. Are you more of a paper or electronic person? What tools do you currently utilize? What tools can you add to your productivity toolbox?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Redefining Productivity for Greater Success - Distractions are Detrimental to Your Desired Results

One of 6 tenants to productivity being "efficiently working at effectively achieving desired results" is how distractions are extremely detrimental to your desired results. In January, I looked at what it means to "be productive" or "boost productivity"; today, I'll do the fourth of 6 deep dives into specifics for redefining productivity to achieve greater success, limiting distractions.

Research shows the average US office worker is interrupted 11 times each hour of the workday, and, then, it takes 3 to 8 minutes to refocus, although it can take up to 25 minutes to really refocus when working in deep thought. My rough math tells me that doesn't leave much time for getting things done, let alone accomplishing your big, hairy, audacious goals. Since time is a very limited resource, it's vital to note how distractions are robbing you of valuable minutes, hours and days; reducing distractions is a valuable skill to learn for boosting your productivity.

Here are 10 easy ways to get started limiting distractions:
  • Wear noise-reducing headphones. - Particularly when you focus on strategic thinking or creative production, wearing headphones can block out what's happening around you, even if they aren't playing any sort of music at all. When you work in a shared workspace, wearing headphones has the added bonus of communicating to your co-workers that you are deep in thought and to please not interrupt your efforts.
  • Turn off the pings, ding and pop-ups of tech-related notifications. - Set your smartphone to silent and remove the vibrate that goes with the silent mode. Stop any pop-up notifications telling you when you get a new comment on social media. Deactivate previews of newly received email messages. Instead, schedule time for handling calls, social media and processing email. Then, for anyone requiring immediate responses, like key account clients or your direct supervisor, make them VIPs so you can utilize Do Not Disturb on iOS and Priority Mode on Android.
  • Make sure your scheduled tasks fulfill your goals. - Burnout comes from actions being out of alignment with your priorities, and burnout definitely derails productivity, limiting focus and making you more susceptible to additional distractions. I find it helpful to regularly audit how my actions align with my priorities, thereby supporting my goals.
  • Break projects into bite-sized actions. - One of the greatest distractions is procrastination, and we often procrastinate when we don't know where to start. Attempting to complete a project, not a task, is futile; it is imperative to have a list of smaller, more manageable actions that can be checked off one-by-one. When you break projects down into actionable tasks, you feel empowered to complete each task in a single work session or, at least, get started on doing each in sequence.
  • Be realistic about task management. - Another frequent distraction is the feeling of overwhelm that comes with too long a list of tasks for any one day. While we all wish we were superheroes, we are humans that can accomplish only so much each day; plus, as unforeseen items are going to pop-up and need attention, making sure our daily to-do list leaves some breathing room is important. Schedule no more than 3-5 "must-do" items each day, and make sure that each "what" which must get done is assigned a "when" for its completion.
  • Utilize a timer. - Some individuals or teams use a timer to simply get started, setting it for 15 minutes and capitalizing on the momentum created by that rush to keep pushing toward completion of the task at hand. Others like using a timer to stay on track, setting it for different intervals throughout the time required for its completion and making certain to still be working on the task at hand when the timer goes off at the end of each interval. In either scenario, timers boost productivity.
  • Schedule "office hours" during your day. - In these blocks of time, you can focus exclusively on assigned projects while blocking out the distractions of calls, emails and people stopping by your office. Tell others you will be available before and after these times; then, during each office hours' timeframe, send calls to voice mail, don't check emails and hold off on answering knocks to your door. It is as if you are away in a meeting, but your meeting is with yourself to attend more intently to the work that can be done by only you.
  • Limit the impact of drivebys. - If you have an extra chair in your office, make sure it has something resting in it to keep others from sitting down to chat or position it somewhere more difficult to access so it's less inviting for visitors to settle in for a while. When someone comes into your office without an appointment, stand up and move towards your door, conveying to the visitor that it is not a convenient time. Keep an outbox near your office door so you can take those items down the hall as someone is coming to your office, always encouraging those that make unplanned visits to schedule an appointment for later. You want to help them, but it has to fit into your schedule so you can give that individual your undivided attention without negatively impacting efforts to complete your own work.
  • Practice mindfulness. - For some, this means doing one thing at a time with complete focus, understanding that multi-tasking simply diminishes effectiveness. For others, this means being fully present in the moment, no matter whether in a meeting or working on the computer, to push forward with the greatest impact. Yet, for different folks, this means scheduling more intense tasks when you have your peak energy, whether that's first-thing in the morning, at night or when caffeine boosts your focus in the mid-afternoon. Pick what works best for you.
  • Work remotely when you most need to focus intently. - While a library might help, research suggests the sounds of a coffee shop act as "white noise", helping you block out everything around for the greatest uninhibited productivity. New surroundings can boost concentration.
What distracts you most often? How have you had success staying productive amidst all of life's distractions? Have you had success with any of the tactics listed above?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Redefining Productivity for Greater Success - Proactively Planning Your Efforts Will Boost Achievement of Goals

One of 6 tenants to productivity being "efficiently working at effectively achieving desired results" is how proactively planning your efforts will boost success for your goals. In January, I looked at what it means to "be productive" or "boost productivity"; today, I'll do the third of 6 deep dives into specifics for redefining productivity to achieve greater success via tactics for planning.

As discussed before, when a team goes into a game, its coaches have scouted the opponent, determined which of the team's strengths match up best to the opponent's weaknesses and created a game plan. Each team adjusts its plan based off how the game progresses, but the chance of winning at all depends greatly on starting with a plan. The same applies to living your life: plan your weeks and days while making adjustments as time progresses so you attack your priorities instead of getting sidetracked by others.

Whether on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, allot time at the end of each week to review the week ending as well as plan for the week ahead. Take control of your productivity by creating your own weekly game plan. I consider this process my weekly strategy session, where I plan for how to address the following:

  • Tasks - Every project needs to be broken down into smaller, more manageable action steps; each of those actions should be assigned a deadline so there is an associated timeline. Evaluate which actions scheduled for the week ending were left undone and should be carried forward; then, determine when each of those incomplete tasks will get done. Decide what new tasks should be added to your to-do list; assign deadlines for each.
  • Team Communications - Get in-depth updates from each member of your team (at work, at home or involved with the community projects you're currently addressing), including what is working, what is not working and what needs attention.
  • Client Communications - Catch-up on processing outstanding emails, calls and snail mail. Reach out to schedule time with those who have been needing your attention. Touch bases with clients from whom you've not heard lately, whether with gratitude, to wish a happy birthday or simply seeing how things are going. Some should include a call to action but not all.
  • Time Commitments - Review the upcoming week's commitments to ensure you've scheduled time for completing whatever preparations have yet to get done. Be certain your calendar includes buffers for travel to appointments as well as time to deal with the unforeseen that might arise.
  • Personal and Professional Development - Determine opportunities for growth, including any training, networking or events that will move you towards your goals. Evaluate anything you've received via email or snail mail that has an imminent registration deadline, and decide whether to attend.

Be strategic and map out a specific plan for addressing all that supports your priority goals, understanding that "every what assigned a when is more likely to get accomplished." I have yet to find a "Someday" on any calendar; there is always Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday but no Someday, which means assigning time for completing actions moves the results of their completion from dreams to goals.

As we all know "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry", it is imperative to allocate time daily to reassess and make sure the next 24 hours continue along the right path. We live in the real world, and things happen to derail even the most well thought-out plans. As hiccups arise, adjustments will need to be made, but your days will be guided by your weekly strategy, which will be empowered and reinforced with these daily wrap-ups. Address these items at the end of each day:

  • Communications - Get updates from team members and "hot prospects", new and returning; touch bases with those that need awareness of what's happening and what you're doing.
  • Tasks - Review the to-do list from the day ending, determining which incomplete tasks can be completed when. Prepare the next day's must-do list, documenting what 3-5 action items will be realistic for the next 24 hours so you can hit the ground running to complete them starting first-thing in the morning.
  • Time - Evaluate your schedule for the next day, verifying that you're prepared for it all. If you're not yet ready, when will you make time for completing those preparations.
  • Workspace - Tidy up... File new items, return that day's work into each item's home and set out the materials for whatever you'll address first upon returning to your office.
  • Successes - Celebrate all you've accomplished in the day that's ending. If you got out of bed, you accomplished something! Acknowledging these wins motivates doing more.
  • Gratitude - Make note of that for which you are grateful at the end of each day, whether one item or a list of things, and consider all areas of your life (home, work, community, self).
  • Final Preparations - Plan from where your meals will come, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. Will you pack your lunch or go out to eat? Do you need to put something in the slow-cooker that evening or in the morning? Then, check the forecast and pick out each detail of what will be necessary for the next day's outfit, including jewelry and undergarments.

With proper planning, what matters most to you finds time in your schedule, and you stay on track amidst all the curveballs that life throws your way. What steps do YOU take to plan ahead?

Monday, February 27, 2017

Redefining Productivity for Greater Success - Clarity of Priorities Enables Knowing Which Goals to Tackle When

One of 6 tenants to productivity being "efficiently working at effectively achieving desired results" is how clarity of priorities enables knowing when to act upon which goals. Last month, I looked at what it means to "be productive" or "boost productivity"; today, I'll do the second of 6 deep dives into specifics for redefining productivity to achieve greater success, looking at the importance of aligning our actions with our priorities.

If you fill your life with the little things that don't really matter, you leave little to no time for more meaningful things... Start with what's most important! If you purposefully make room in each week or day to address actions fueling what really matters to you, there is still room in your life to fill in with some of those less meaningful actions, but you'll move more rapidly towards achieving the goals that matter most. Comparing the time limitations of each day with the space constraints of a jar, this video displays how making room in your schedule for those priority actions first leaves room for filling the less important activities around later, like starting by filling the jar with the rocks before adding the pebbles and sand around those rocks.

Focusing on your priorities is a powerful time management tactic to overcome the limitations in saying "I'll get to that someday." I have yet to find a calendar that includes "Someday". Every calendar has Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday but not "Someday". Since we are more likely to get something accomplished when it has a specific date and time assigned for its completion, especially amidst the clutter on today's calendars, it's unlikely something you're going to do "Someday" will ever get accomplished. Remember that every "what" assigned a "when" is more likely to get done, and determine what finds a home on your calendar each day, week, month and year.

Each day, we have only 1,440 minutes to accomplish all our goals for work, home, community and ourselves, including taking time to eat, sleep, bathe, exercise and spend time with those we love. With our resource of time being so limited, it's imperative to invest each minute wisely, but how can we know which goals are important enough priorities to earn an investment of our own time?

I have two tools I prefer using when evaluating my current priorities. First, since my brain is not a reliable retention tool, it's important to dump the information out of my head, but I like to do that data dump in the most organized manner possible. I create three columns on a sheet of paper: one for rocks, one for pebbles and one for sand; then, as I move to-do items from my brain to the paper, I sort by level of meaningfulness into those three columns. The most important tasks, those that fuel my most valuable results and move me to my priority goals, are listed in the "rocks" column. The time sucks that distract me from what I want to achieve or are more a priority of others get listed in the "sand" column while those actions falling more in the mid-level of meaningfulness go in the "pebbles" column.

Second, once everything needing my attention has been pulled out of my brain and written out so I can view it all at once, I'm able to better utilize the Eisenhower Matrix to evaluate my current priorities. Similar to training from Stephen Covey, the Eisenhower Decision Principle evaluates tasks using the criteria of important / unimportant along the left-hand side as well as the criteria of urgent / not urgent along the top; tasks are placed in according quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix for determining next steps. If something falls in the Important / Urgent box, it is to be done now. If something falls in the Important / Not Urgent box, it must be done but can be delayed to a later date. If something falls in the Not Important / Urgent box, I consider whether it can be delegated. If something falls in the Not Important / Not Urgent box, I consider whether it can be deleted.

When you are evaluating which actions on your running to-do list are priorities, consider a few enlightening questions... Does this task truly need to be completed? If not, can I delete it? If it must get done, does it need to be done by me? If not, to whom can I delegate it? I find this mental checklist very helpful in determining which tasks earn a portion of the very limited time on my calendar.

How do you determine which tasks are priorities? How do you use that prioritization to plan your next steps?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Redefining Productivity for Greater Success - Time is a Limited Resource and Needs to Be Invested Wisely

How do you invest time for best ROI?
One of 6 tenants to productivity being "efficiently working at effectively achieving desired results" is how time is a limited resource and needs to be invested wisely. Last month, I looked at what it really means to "be productive" or "boost productivity"; today, I'll do the first of 6 deep dives into specifics for redefining productivity to achieve greater success, looking at our limited resource of time.

Each day offers only 1,440 minutes while each week is made of no more than 168 hours. As any clock keeps tick, tick, ticking away, time stops for no one and nothing. We cannot create more time, and, once any amount of time has passed, it cannot be lived again.

Whether the resource being invested is money or time, there is always a measurable return. A financial advisor will talk with you about investing your money so that it can grow and make you more money. As a productivity consultant, I talk with you about investing your time to get a slightly different return on that investment; how you invest your limited resource of time will determine how well you achieve your goals, and the actions in which you invest your time reflect what are truly your priorities.

Next week, in the second installment of this blog series, I'll follow that train of thought further, looking at the importance of aligning our actions with our priorities; meanwhile, in considering wisely investing our limited resource of time, there is one mantra to keep in mind: Saying yes to doing something means saying no to anything else using that time. It's not possible to be in two places at the same time, and no moment can be lived twice.

One of the greatest compliments I have ever received was when a client told me, "I never realized how valuable 15 minutes could be until I started working with you." We can improve only what we measure, and we must know how we are investing our time in order to invest it better. Therefore, if you are struggling to grasp how much time different tasks take or how you are currently investing your time, take action... Set a timer to see how long common actions take you to complete. Further, keep a time journal for at least a week to track how you are spending all your time.

How keenly aware are you of the limitations on your time? What steps do you take to make sure that time is invested wisely?

Friday, February 10, 2017

7 Travel Hacks You Need to Know Before You Go

To give you a taste of what's to come in Emily Parks' series of travel tips that will count down to Memorial Day, we welcome Sarah Smith of to present today's post.

People like reading about travel tips simply because travel can be overwhelming and confusing. There are tips about booking cheap flights and getting the best hotel accommodations for a good rate. These are, of course some of the main concerns of travelers, but there are other things about which a person who travels a lot might be concerned. Packing and taking great photos are two of those.

Many people worry about what to bring and how to cram everything they need for a few days into small pieces of luggage. Did you know that rolling your clothes makes them easier to pack and leaves them less wrinkled? You will benefit from packing mostly dark-colored clothes since they don’t get dirty very easily. You can just hand wash them with soap and water in your hotel room and hang them at the clothesline if there’s no laundry service. This way, you can reuse the same shirt or pants several times during your trip.

You can bring shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste in sachets since you'll need only a little of each, but bring a lot of sunscreen, especially if you will be spending a lot of time under the sun.

If you are traveling with your loved ones or friends, it will also do you well to book tours. It will make going around islands or cities much easier since everything will be taken care for you. The itinerary will also be laid out, and you won’t even have to worry about meals and other incidentals.

This timely infographic details travel hacks and other tips that will serve you well during your next trip:

7 Travel Hacks You Need to Know Before You Go

Monday, February 6, 2017

Productivity Best Practices from Super Bowl LI

Bill Belichick, the coach of the New England Patriots, is often called a "legend" or the "greatest of all time", and his team's win in last night's Super Bowl LI reinforced those beliefs for many who had been thinking that way. At halftime, the National Football Conference champions (the Atlanta Falcons) led the American Football Conference champions (the New England Patriots) by a score of 21 to 3, and most folks were saying the game was over. No team had ever overcome that large of a deficit in the Super Bowl, especially when the lead stretched to 28 versus 3 in the 3rd quarter, but no one counted on the spectacular play of Patriots' supporting cast members, like running back James White, tight end Martellus Bennett, wide receiver Danny Amendola, defensive lineman Trey Flowers and wide receiver Julian Edelman. There are a couple important productivity lessons brought to light by this Patriots' win, and we can implement them to organize for success in our lives.

First, there's no I in TEAM, and, together, everyone achieves more. Although quarterback Tom Brady was awarded the Super Bowl MVP in 2015 and 2017, he acknowledged in both cases that he could never have achieved such a big, hairy, audacious goal without everyone on the team carrying their share of the workload. In 2015, he gave the truck he was awarded as MVP away to Patriots' cornerback Malcolm Butler; then, earlier today, Brady again acknowledged this win coming from a real team effort by saying "I think James White deserves it" in reference to the truck Brady was awarded as the 2017 Super Bowl MVP. Situational football plays a key role in such an epic comeback, and there are so many critical plays that contribute to a team performance of this magnitude: James White set a Super Bowl record with 20 points and 14 receptions; Trey Flowers sacked Falcons' quarterback Matt Ryan in a pivotal play late in the 4th quarter, which is one play Ryan truly wishes he could change; Julian Edelman might've saved the day with a miraculous, gravity-defying, history-making and absolutely incredible catch, which you should click here to watch now if you've yet to see it or follow a step-by-step breakdown of the play here. Aristotle said, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts", but it is through the culmination of all these players' contributions that the entire Patriots' team won.

Second, focused efforts without distraction over the duration of a project lead to effectively achieving desired results. When trailing by over 8 touchdowns, the Patriots could have easily given up, and most folks could have related to that feeling of being unable to overcome such a large deficit, particularly as such a Super Bowl comeback had never been done before. It's hard to believe you can accomplish something no one has done before, but the Patriots exhibited the mental toughness necessary when it might've been most difficult. One of the mantras for which Coach Belichick is most well known is "Do your job", and, for each member of the Patriots' team, doing his job consisted of diligently and attentively playing football, working beyond his limitations and showing mastery for all aspects of his game throughout the entire 60 minutes of four, 15-minute quarters as well as the first 4 minutes of overtime. No more and no less. Some have said the Falcons' defense appeared tired in the final quarter of the game while others have said the Patriots' offense finally figured out how to overcome what the Falcons' defense had been doing; regardless, the New England Patriots fulfilled Coach Belichick's expectation of doing all the little things it takes to win. Diligently paying attention to details led to the Patriots' success.

The men's basketball team for North Carolina State University was coached by Jim Valvano from 1980 to 1990, after which he famously battled metastatic adenocarcinoma, a type of bone cancer. One of Coach Valvano's most memorable motivational speeches was delivered February 21, 1993, during which Valvano stressed the importance of hope, love and persistence and included his famous quote of "Don't give up, don't ever give up." In last night's Super Bowl LI victory, the Patriots chose to never give up. Couple the Patriots' persistence with teamwork and each team member doing his job with great focus as well as attention to detail, and it's easy to see why the New England Patriots were rewarded with a remarkable Super Bowl victory.

What productivity practices make your organization most successful? Do you practice teamwork? Do you reinforce focusing on the details to do your job well? Do you have a culture of not quitting and not giving up?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 1st is Change Your Password Day

No matter how diligently you plan for your financial future, chances are pretty good that you put your future at risk every day. If you are like me, you have online accounts that run the gamut, including logins to download music, purchase clothing, pay bills, communicate on social media, share documents or information and much, much more. Back when the Heartbleed security bug exploded in early 2014, we all had to take stock of our online accounts to change passwords for all the infected sites, and I realized how long my list of accounts had gotten. Couple the vast number of accounts with password security ranging from horrible to somewhat mediocre, and our risk is very scary.

According to CNN, half American adults were hacked in 2013 alone, and evidence indicates that situation is not slacking off. Looking at the list of biggest data breaches in 2016, there are some big names that can invoke real fear for those of us dependent on the Internet. A plethora of databases (from the U.S. Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service to LinkedIn, Yahoo!, Weebly website design, Cisco and Wendy's) are all included. Yes, I did say Wendy's the restaurant chain, and there's no telling what 2017 has in store.

Back in 2012, Gizmodo declared February 1st to be "Change Your Password Day", which I think is a pretty good idea. Using a password manager can increase the security of your passwords by having them created via the technology itself rather than your brain and secures those passwords electronically; however, even if you choose an alternative method for keeping track of all your online accounts, it's probably been awhile since you've refreshed your passwords. Take action today and change your passwords!

How do you keep track of the logins and passwords for all your online accounts? Will you take time today to assign each online account a new, more secure password?

Friday, January 27, 2017

What Does It Really Mean to "Be Productive" or "Boost Productivity"? Redefine Productivity for Greater Success

Productivity is a popular topic at networking events, in office conversations and for articles across many business-focused publications. I often hear people talk about how productive they are. Some folks use this buzzword to describe the rate at which a person does useful work while others use it to reference how much is getting done or how capable someone is to accomplish all that is needed. Maybe it's as simple as accomplishing what one sets out to do, fueling greater peace, happiness and success.

Although the dictionary definition of productivity is "the quality, state or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance or bring forth goods and services", I think it is so much more than simply getting more done in less time; from my viewpoint, productivity is about efficiently working to effectively achieve results desired for all elements of life. The emphasis on each element of life fluctuates as priorities change while our actions and efforts in each element of life can complement the other elements rather than having them compete with each other.

All individuals must determine what is "right" for their own productivity based off varying priorities and desired results, knowing there is not one best way to do this. Here are 6 common themes in how I help my clients boost productivity:
  • Time is a limited resource and needs to be invested wisely. Each day gifts us only 1,440 minutes; each week is only 168 hours. Saying yes to doing something means saying no to anything else using that time. Once we have lived that time, we cannot get it back; unlike money that can be invested to grow, the return on time spent must be greater than simply more time. How each of us measures the return on our time investment should reflect directly on our priorities.
  • Distractions are extremely detrimental to your desired results. Research shows the average US office worker is interrupted 11 times each hour of the workday and, then, it takes 3 to 8 minutes to refocus, although it can take up to 25 minutes to really refocus when working in deep thought. I'm not a mathematician, but even I can deduce how that doesn't leave much time for getting things accomplished. Since time is so limited, reducing distractions is a valuable skill to learn.
  • It is imperative to utilize all available resources. Each of us has different assets in our productivity toolbox, but we all have tools to use. Resources can include apps or websites, streamlined workflow processes, an organized space in which you know where things are stored, consultants hired for their expertise, employees or service professionals to whom you delegate (including house cleaners and chefs), calendars, timers, boundaries, to-do lists, email, automation and much more. Sometimes, an unbiased individual with a fresh set of eyes can best find additional sources of help, but there are always tools to support our efforts and make life easier.
How do you define being productive? Do you tie it to literally producing more, helping you feel more in control, making more money or something else? When thinking about boosting productivity, are results or feelings more important to you? What do YOU consider productivity?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How Are Your Resolutions Coming? Or Do You Have a "Word of the Year" Guiding Your New Year's Direction?

The beginning of a new year often presents a fresh start and is an ideal time to develop new habits, attack new goals and "be better" or "do better" in whatever areas of life have been challenging. Yet, for many of us, motivation and momentum starts to wane a bit after a few weeks. Life gets in the way, distractions arise, your annual battle with bronchitis comes back with a vengeance or you move on to whatever might be bigger and better at that moment.

Research tells us 92% of new year's resolutions fail. There are a number of reasons resolutions fail, including overly ambitious targets, vague details and peer pressure, but the fact remains that resolutions are rarely successful in driving change.

What if we tried something different for this calendar year?

I've heard more and more people moving away from new year's resolutions; instead, we're setting a theme by picking one word to summarize who we want to be, what we want to accomplish and our overall desire for directing our actions in 2017.

It won't really matter what word you choose as long as it resonates with you and your vision for the new year. How do you want to feel? What goals do you want to accomplish at work, at home, in the community and for yourself? What are your dreams and big, hairy, audacious goals? What successes would make you proudest?

For 2017, I have chosen "uplevel" as my word of the year. According to the Urban Dictionary, uplevel means "to transform and grow in an area previously stagnant." This covers everything from my network connections to the service I provide clients, how present I am when hanging out with friends to how organized I keep my home and how proactive I am in my Lung Cancer Initiative volunteering to my dedication for working out at least once per week at LifeTime Fitness. It's an all-encompassing goal!

If you create new year's resolutions, how successful are you each year? Alternatively, have you considered replacing your new year's resolutions with a word for your new year? If you chose a word for this year, what is your for 2017?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Tackle the Time-Crunch for Better Gift-Giving Success

There are many folks who purposefully wait until the last few days to complete their Christmas shopping, loving the energy that comes with running around on Christmas Eve or finding that these last-minute shopping sprees fill them with the Christmas spirit. I have vivid memories of running out with Dad on Christmas Eve to start his shopping, feeling the excitement from everyone's harried movements. However, many procrastinators who have shopping left did not plan to not be done and are truly feeling the crunch. 

If you would rather skip the mall madness, you have a few options:

One wonderful idea is to "shop small" and visit the locally-owned and -operated small businesses throughout your community. When you shop at a chain store, only $43 of every $100 spent benefits your neighbors locally; however, when you shop at a locally-owned business, $68 of every $100 spent stays right there in your local economy. When you look at the statistics, there's ample rationale for saving your sanity, enjoying greater service and shopping your locally-owned small businesses. If you are in the Lake Norman area, consider supporting my sisters' shop, Sweet Magnolia; if you are in the Raleigh area, consider supporting Stylefinder, DECO or The Green Monkey. Which locally-owned and -operated small business in your community is your favorite?

Another alternative is to subscribe your gift recipients to goodies that will be delivered directly to their front doors. The younger folks in your life might appreciate a delivery from Rockets of Awesome, where experts hand-pick a selection of stylish clothes, sending 8-12 outfit-ready items that are $12-$36 per item and can fit what size you select between sizes 2 and 14. The dog lovers in your life might appreciate a delivery from Barkbox, which includes a monthly box of goodies for dogs and their humans. If you have not already gotten them a Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner book by Ashley Christensen and Kaitlyn Goalen, the foodies in your life might appreciate a subscription to the Snack Smart, Do Good club from Love With Food, which delivers all-natural, organic or gluten-free snacks each month. Those folks in your life that lack a green thumb and want plants easy to keep alive might appreciate a delivery from The Desert Box, which includes a planter made from repurposed wood, 1-3 succulents and / or cacti, depending on size, soil and moss, pouch of white granite pebbles and a plant care card. Plus, anyone can benefit from a subscription to the Dollar Shave Club, which offers blades and associated shaving products as well as sulfate-free shower products that hydrate without stripping, hair styling products and skin protection products. Which subscription gifts have you loved giving or receiving?

Stop spinning your wheels; take advantage of these options to organize for success. What other tactics work best for you? Please share your strategies for time-crunched gift giving to better enjoy the holidays. Make every minute matter!™

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Over 60 Gift Ideas to Eliminate Clutter for Loved Ones

It is the holiday season, and, whether you're celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or Boxing Day, chances are good that your shopping list feels endless. While giving the gift of your time or tickets to an experience offer excellent alternatives to eliminate clutter for your loved ones, we often want to give a tangible item that can immediately improve the recipient's life. When determining which gifts to consider, it is important to think about lifestyle elements for the person to whom you're giving a gift. Here are some of my favorite clutter-free gifts for many of our work-life needs:

- In this day and age of being attached to our smartphones, battery power can extremely valuable. Gifting a tool to charge your loved one's mobile device while on-the-go is a great idea, and the blue leather iPhone charge-and-sync bracelet from Jet is cost-effective. As another option, consider the mobile power banks or the solar power bank from The Container Store.

- Speaking of charging devices, to provide an amazing charging outlet for home or work that allows doing more in less space, consider gifting the thingCHARGER. In addition to 2 standard outlets, this has 2 built-in USB ports and a top that doubles as a charging dock for your phone or tablet. Alternatively, consider the USB wrap and charger to wrap excess cord around the charging plug as your gift recipient's device is being charged.

- Do you have a gift recipient who often has a phone near water at the pool, lake, beach or bath tub? Consider the Dry Spell Floating Phone Case from The Container Store to lock out sand and water while keeping a smartphone safely tucked inside, enabling the user to continue taking photos, texting, using the phone for calls and, generally, having fun or catching up on work. Plus, if it falls into the water, it's designed to float so the phone stays protected.

- While on-the-go, wouldn't it be nice for your loved ones to have a smaller charging cord for their PC laptops? Consider Dart micro PC laptop charger from FINsix, which offers a PC charger shrunk to fit in your pocket, delivering 65W of energy through a six-foot cable with a built-in USP port to power up another device. There are 9 interchangeable tips to fuel up just about any brand of PC, but it's not an option if your recipient prefers Macs.

- On the other hand, for those with the 2016 MacBook Pro, consider the Thunderbolt 3 USB-C Hub from HyperDrive to equip this Apple laptop with HDMI video output, Thunderbolt 3 video connectivity, USB-C with 5Gb/s data speed, SD with UHS-I 104MB/s, microSD with UHS-I 104MB/s and 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1 with 5Gb/s data speed as well as high power to various devices. This will be a game-changer for folks who utilize multiple devices with their MacBooks so make sure to check out the video on their page.

- It's easy to get grossed out by what happens to our tech tools, but PhoneSoap will keep your smartphone disinfected as it charges while the Electronics Cleaning Brush by OXO cleans the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies from keyboard keys to camera lenses. Plus, the screen cleaning wipes from Spruce and Co make life a little brighter as they clean mobile devices' screens.

- Although there are plenty of options for bluetooth speakersBose Soundlink Mini 2Beats by Dre Beats Pill+ and Sony SRS X77 offer the best portable bluetooth speakers that I've seen. Plus, I'm loving the JS Portable Mini Wireless Bluetooth Nut Speaker with Sling for iPhone, iPad, Android and more for an itty-bitty sized speaker with elegant looks and simple operation. Or consider the bluetooth waterproof speaker from The Container Store for a high-performance, go-anywhere bluetooth speaker that lets you stream music or take calls anywhere, whether outdoors or on the water.

- The Monkey Mat Quilted Blanket or Mini Monkey Mat create the perfect clean, dry surface to sit on at the beach, for a picnic in the park, during an outdoor concert or sitting on a hill for a football game. Padded for comfort but exceptionally lightweight, its lightly weighted corners keep the mat down, and it comes in a compact travel pouch for easily taking anywhere.

- Allow your gift recipients to keep an eye on their homes while at work, out on the town or traveling via the Canary All-in-One Home Security Device with a live video stream of whichever room in which it is kept and a measure of air quality to keep safe.

- I'm a big fan of the personal assistants available on smartphones, like Cortana, Dragon Mobile Assistant, EasilyDo, Google Now, Maluuba, Siri and 24me, there are a growing number of technological assistants to keep in the room with you, like Google Home, Amazon Echo and Echo Dot.

- Your loved ones can keep clothes looking their best wherever needed with the Gleener On The Go Travel Fuzz Remover, which includes a lint brush and three garment-safe blade options to remove pills from fabrics as fine as cashmere or as heavy as wool.

- Folks don't want to leave home with a big gap at the back of their pants or a bulky belt buckle that ruins the lines of a fitted top; therefore, consider gifting Invisibelt for the perfect, low-profile alternative to hold up pants without adding bulk.

- Consider BootRescue or ShoeRescue to wipe away dirt, grime and damaging salt stains, especially with how difficult weather can be for those lovely accessories protecting our feet; HandbagRescue cleans/ conditions prized purses via essential oils.

- If your gift recipient could benefit from a better way to more easily grab a bag's zipper and use it to open the bag, consider gifting the zipper pulls from The Container Store. Choose from Paracord Zipper Pulls in durable nylon or plastic zipper pulls from Eagle Creek in black, lime green or ocean blue.

- Do you have a gift recipient who runs a business, will be making big changes in the new year, has tons of new ideas to be implemented or is looking to uplevel goals moving forward? Consider the Powersheets® Intentional Goal Planner. As another option, consider the Fit-Spirational Journal to log every calorie eaten, every exercise and that for which there is gratitude.

- Do you have a gift recipient with a keychain full of keys? Consider the KeySmart Minimalist Key Organizer to contain up to 10 different keys within a compact key holder that fits neatly and comfortably in a pocket.

- Do you have a gift recipient who loves to workout? Consider the Life Energy Ekosmart Yoga Mat from Bed, Bath & Beyond, Gaiam Restore Deep Tissue Roller from Target, S'well water bottle to keep beverages cold for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours, leggings from Lululemon or Athleta and Phillips Freshtones Wireless Earbuds. As another option, consider the Harmony Mat from Jade Yoga, which provides a thick mat with great traction, comes in a variety of fun, soothing colors and gives back by planting a tree for every mat sold while contributing to charities corresponding to colors.

- Do you have a gift recipient who spends a great deal of time working or playing outside in the cold? Consider ThermaCELL Heated Products, like shoe insoles and hand warmers.

- Do you have a gift recipient who loves living a spirited life? Consider a tool that multi-tasks, like the Beer Opening Glass from Uncommongoods. Alternatively, the portable wine glass from The Container Store makes a great gift. Or choose from Corkcicle's innovative bar accessories for a reusable cork that chills wine, an in-bottle beer chiller, an intriguing wedge of ice specially designed to cool the contents of a tumbler glass and the Arctican to keep 12-ounce drinks cold without chilling your hand.

- Do you have a gift recipient who sips on a cup of a coffee for hours or starts a cup of coffee only to get pulled away with a distraction? Consider Mr Coffee Mug Warmer for Office/Home Use. Plus, anyone who enjoys a hot beverage would enjoy the Multi Photo Color Changing Mug; it is dishwasher and microwave safe.

- Do you have a gift recipient who is a foodie? My fellow alumnus from East Forsyth High School in Kernersville, NC, Ashley Christensen, owns the AC Restaurants group and is sharing some of her famous recipes through the Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner cookbook. You absolutely must try her macaroni au gratin! Alternatively, consider gifting a Shiitake Mushroom Log to grow multiple crops for up to 3 years.

- Do you have a gift recipient who wears glasses? I know first-hand how difficult it is to keep glasses clean so I'm extremely excited about the creation of Peeps carbon eyeglass cleaner.

- Do you have a gift recipient who needs a little stress relief? Consider The Head Duo - Cooling and Soothing Kit from Saje Natural Wellness for a refreshing blend to be used with a soothing head massager for an ultra relaxing scalp massage. Or perhaps your gift recipient would prefer calming essential oils from Young Living or Doterra.

- Do you have a gift recipient who is often searching for keys, wallets, bags and more? Consider TrackR Bravo coin-sized tracking devices to track whatever needs to be found. Attach the tracker to something valuable, connect the app on a smartphone and, then, when the item of value is missing, it can be found via the app's locate button. Further, consider the KeyCatch Magnetic Key Hangers to replace the lower standard screw of any light switch plate with a super-strong magnet that holds even heavy keychains so your gift recipient can always find those vital keys.

- For the travelers on your gift recipients' list, Lay-n-Go offers products for hauling around toiletries, cosmetics, technology accessories and Legos alike. Likewise, the Everything ORGO Expandable Travel Organizer provides a whole system to organize and keep track of makeup, toiletries, jewelry and more that fits securely over your sink to conserve counter space.

- For folks who travel most via plane, consider the TAB Seatback Pocket Organizer from Walter + Ray to keep what's needed at your recipient's fingertips while on a long flight. Further, make the trip a little cozier with the easy-carry travel blanket from The Container Store that is ultra-soft as well as lightweight and comes packed in a zippered, jersey-knit pouch. I'm considering this blanket as perfect for an upcoming football game in Annapolis, MD.

- For folks who travel regularly and need help sleeping in hotels or on planes as well as those who have streetlights seeping into their bedrooms, shut-eye sleep mask from Madewell can help.

- If your gift recipient travels most often via automobile, consider a JunoJumper portable battery pack with enough power to jumpstart most 4- or 6-cylinder cars (or mobile devices) via 12 volts and 300 amps, all in a pack roughly the size of a cell phone. Plus, no need for extra cables as JunoJumper comes with its own.

- Whether you are gifting a guy or a gal, it's vital to be prepared, and the minimergency kits from Pinch Provisions provide many tools necessary for life's little emergencies. Better yet, look to the states of emergency kit for "personal care that meets local flair".

- Speaking of preparedness, the right tools are the key to staying safe during a storm or power outage, and Eton Emergency Preparedness Tools provide an arsenal of innovative safety gear to survive difficult situations. Choose between the Blackout Buddy and Scorpion II Multi-Function Emergency Radio to best prepare your gift recipient for whatever issues might arise.

- The PocketMonkey will become the go-to tool for anyone to whom you gift it! This 12-in-1 tool fits in any wallet, is as thin as a credit card, is built of unbendable stainless steel and is TSA-compliant. Or consider the Micro Plus EX Hand Tool to have one tool for pliers, wire cutter, wire stripper, wire crimper, bottle opener, flat screwdrivers and Phillips screwdrivers.

- The Classic Leather Front Pocket Wallet from Rogue Industries provides advantages over traditional, back-pocket wallets in that it's safer to carry your billfold in the front, and puts less stress on your back, allowing for comfortably carrying cash and cards alike.

- Everyone appreciates a pair of comfortable sneakers to wear everywhere, and Allbirds uses the amazing qualities of merino wool to minimize odor, regulate temperature and wick away moisture in sneakers that feel like clouds on your feet. Or you could gift a subscription to the "sneaks of the quarter club" so your recipient gets a curated mix of the best apparel and shoes from Adidas every 3 months through Adidas Avenue A.

- Personalized gifts don't have to include the recipient's initials or name; instead, highlight one of your loved one's favorite places with laser cut street maps from CutMaps. Try a campus map for a recent college graduate, the city where he grew up or the place a couple got married. The stainless steel design comes already framed so all you have to do is wrap it, and, at 5" x 7", each map is just the right size to sit atop a desk or on one's entry foyer table.

- Whether your little one is a fan of Batman™, Darth Vader™, Spider-Man™, unicorns, princesses or critters, Pottery Barn Kids offers a bath wrap option that doubles as a towel and a cover-up.

Since it is hard to go wrong with gift cards and gift certificates, consider Gyft to buy, send, organize and redeem eGift cards while the Yiftee app will let you send certificates for what's local to any recipient via text or email message.

I recommend culling together all your gift-giving ideas, what you've bought for whom, where each present is stored and whether it has been wrapped thus far. Evernote provides an excellent option to organize those details amidst all the other information you must remember; however, if you are seeking an app designated to tracking your gift-giving activities, The Christmas List, GiftPlanner and Santa's Bag are really fabulous iOS alternatives while Gift List Manager and Christmas List Snowball are great Android options, and Christmas List works cross-platform. Which will you try?

Above all, though, realize we are still 2 weeks from Christmas so there is time to pull together all the loose ends. Take a deep breath, remember to take care of yourself amidst the craziness and start breaking the big projects down into manageable action items.

Finally, if you are shopping in stores, you can compare prices with the Bakodo app; alternatively, if you are shopping online, use the Honey browser extension to find ways of saving money instantly.

What gifts do you have in mind to help your loved ones boost productivity while taming technology or limiting clutter? What tools do you currently utilize in your own work-life integration efforts? What are your go-to gifts that are functional for folks? I am always looking for more and would love your ideas!