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

Monday, August 30, 2010

What's Sitting In Your Email Inbox?

If someone were to peer over your shoulder right now to look at your email Inbox, what would that person find? Do you keep just about everything received in your Inbox, making it such that you have several hundred emails in there right now? Do you keep action items in your Inbox, meaning the number of messages varies depending on how many items would fall on your to-do list? Well, here's a little tidbit that I've found can have an immense impact on increasing one's productivity: Your email Inbox is definitely not your to-do list. I recommend using your email Inbox as exactly that... an "In Box". New items funnel through as needed while action items are moved accordingly. A brief glimpse at how that concept plays out day-to-day is as follows:

- What has yet to be read is what remains in your email Inbox, an area to be dealt with when most convenient for you so that you control your technology rather than your technology controlling you.
- Any action that can be completed in less than 5 minutes after reading the corresponding email should be done at that time, particularly since it's common in such instances for the time to re-engage in the action to take longer than simply doing the action when first made aware it needs to be done.
- What requires more action gets moved to your electronic to-do list by creating a Task with subject indicating action and with a due date included OR to your paper to-do list by adding to your notebook of action items, a running data dump of to-do items, assigning to your daily tasks when appropriate.
- What indicates an upcoming appointment or specific time commitment gets moved to Calendar, allowing the subject to convey what action is to happen and outlining its set date, time and location.
- What has been completed but might need to be referenced later gets moved to Personal Folders, naming those Personal Folders to mirror your paper + electronic file management systems.

When adopting this approach, it's important to note that simply dragging an email from the Inbox to Tasks or Calendar folders will just copy the item in question, not actually moving it, unlike dragging an email to any of the Personal Folders for retention. Instead, to create a new Task or a new appointment in the Calendar, either right-click on the email in the Inbox or double-click to open it and click the "Move to Folder" link for selecting the appropriate folder, i.e. Tasks or Calendar. Once the email is officially moved, it's important to adjust the included components to accurately convey desired information (like Subject line to action or appointment description, Due Date, Location and Recurrence fields). And always hit Save when done.

At the end of each day, there should be no more than 10 emails sitting in your email Inbox. Following the approach above will get you there, but remembering how the Delete key is your friend will make it even easier... If it's a notification of something that has passed or if it's something you can find elsewhere (like on the sender's website), there is no need to keep that email. What is your current approach to processing emails arriving in your Inbox? Do you think adopting this approach might make life a little easier?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Happiness Happens Month

Posted by Emily Parks on August 29, 2010

August is "Happiness Happens Month", where you notice, discuss and promote your happiness while helping others to do the same. Isn't that a great concept?!? There are so many health and productivity benefits that come from being happy. Therefore, I suggest taking a moment right now to think about what makes YOU happy... I love music so I always gravitate toward a great song, but what song makes your toes tap? What TV show always makes you laugh? What was your fave food as a kid and does it still make you smile when you're about to eat it? What's your favorite holiday? What's the happiest moment you've ever had in your life? And who makes you smile just thinking about him/her?

Taking a moment to think about questions like this can be enough to boost your happiness quotient quite a bit... Yet, do you incorporate happiness in your day-to-day activities?

Simple options for making happiness happen include raise your activity level, do a good deed for someone else, learn something new, rid yourself of a nagging task, adopt a healthy diet, try to be more organized, think of the best scenario instead of the worst and seek out a hobby or passion.

What will you do today in order to make happiness happen? Have fun celebrating "Happiness Happens Month" throughout this last bit of August!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Overwhelmed By All That Needs To Be Done?

If your memory is anything like mine, it's just not possible to remember every little thing that pops into your brain, let alone all the requests, to-do's, phone calls, etc. Some things pop in and out of my brain fairly quickly, making it so very important to write things down. In fact, I've found the saying "what is written down gets accomplished" to be very true but only when done in a way that works for me. Operating directly out of my running list on a day-to-day basis can be quite overwhelming; however, I've adapted the process into a technique that has proven effective for many of my clients and might be helpful for you, too.

Everywhere I go, I always have with me a small, lined notebook. From a psychological perspective, it's important that the notebook is in a color or pattern that makes me happy and puts a smile on my face, making me more likely to use it and not avoid it. A good example of something that would work for this notebook is Franklin Covey's Floral Lined Journal, which can be found at, or Wellspring's Flip Notes, which can be found at For individuals that prefer electronic solutions over paper solutions, the Notes or Evernote applications on any smart phone can work, too. My notebook serves as a "master to-do list", basically a data-dump. When a to-do item, an idea, a voice mail message I must return, meeting notes or the like arises, it gets written in my notebook, freeing my mind for what pops-up next or, better yet, to focus on the day's priorities.

Then, at the end of each day, I review my "master to-do list" for what are the next day's priorities, pulling 3 - 5 items which absolutely must be completed. In my strategy session, I review upcoming appointments that require planning, pending deadlines and what appointments are scheduled the next day requiring certain preparation or that I take related items with me, taking into consideration anything impacting what are those 3 - 5 action items. With all that gets thrown at me (and my clients) during any given day, I find that 3 - 5 action items are about all that can be planned in advance while realistically expecting them to be completed. Finally, those 3 - 5 action items are written on a 3"x5" index card, something to keep in front of me when working on my computer or carry with me between that day's appointments.

If you take just a few moments at the end of today to plan for tomorrow, it could make a world of difference in how your day goes, enabling you to accomplish more and avoid overwhelm from what's not important or not time-sensitive. How do you currently handle your to-do items? Is your system working? If it is working, what do you like best about your system? On the other hand, if it is not working, what frustrates you most about your current system for handling to-do items?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

How'd You Simplify Your Life This Week?

As we come to the end of national "Simplify Your Life Week", what do you think it means to SIMPLIFY? Think you'll need to give up all your worldly possessions to become a hermit and live in a cave somewhere?!? Luckily, simplifying is really all about having enough without having too much... Cutting back on physical clutter is part of the picture, but the emphasis is on slowing down and focusing on your true priorities. For some, this may mean working fewer hours and taking a cut in pay to have more time with friends and family. For others, this may mean buying a smaller home that is closer to work so as to lessen the daily commute while cleaning out unused items throughout the home. Meanwhile, others may take this as the opportunity to simply say "no" to more of each day's endless requests from others, saying "yes" to only requests that fulfill personal & professional goals.

Did you celebrate this "Simplify Your Life Week" by making a change to simplify your life? If not, where do you see excess in your life? Whether physical objects, paper in your files, commitments made or emails arriving in your Inbox, is there something you can purge and begin to simplify? To eliminate overwhelm and ensure success sticks, start with ONE change in ONE area of your life... What can you change today?