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

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Using One To-Do List to Organize for Success

Are you jotting down reminders on multiple sheets of paper, in various notebooks or via sticky notes posted all around your office? If so, how many of those action items are actually getting completed?!? Keeping all your to-do items in one place makes it more likely they will each get completed and aids in prioritizing. However, how do you make a to-do list really operate as a tool to encourage your great success? How do you compile your action items to ensure all of them get done? Read on for tips to best utilize your task management solution...

1. Use what works for you. Test different options to see if your personality and specific needs mesh best with a paper or electronic option, keeping in mind that electronic options allow for reminders while some people remember better what they write down on paper. With smartphones that sync with cloud technology as well as small notebook options, either can be as mobile as needed, but there is no "right" or "wrong" option; just select whichever option is best for you.

2. Remember that it's okay to say "no". When someone asks you to do something, ask yourself "Is this task important? Does this task move me forward in achieving my goals? Is there someone else that should be doing this instead?" Be strategic about tasks you complete versus tasks you decline or delegate, and know that saying "no" can be a very powerful tool in your arsenal.

3. Do not depend on your mind to remember all tasks. Keep one tool (whether smartphone for your electronic option or small notebook for your paper option) with you at all times to continually add tasks as they arise. This "data dump" becomes your master to-do list, from which you pull a daily to-do list at the end of each day as you plan for the following day's activities.

4. Delegate. To get more done, find all the tasks on your to-do list that can easily be accomplished by someone else and, then, delegate those tasks to that person. Sharing tasks empowers the other individual AND opens time in your schedule to complete the tasks that can be done by only you.

5. Delete. Cross non-critical items off your to-do list so they don't nag on you or distract you from what really must get done... Focus on what remains, and relish in how good it feels to remove items from your to-do list.

What techniques do you use to maximize your to-do list's effectiveness? Please share in the Comments section below.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Business & Professional Women's Young Careerist Finalist

Last night, I was honored to be one of three finalists in Raleigh's competition for the Business & Professional Women's Virginia Allan Young Careerist Program, organized by Paulina Bohorquez of Paulina Real Estate Team and judged by all-stars in our community: Folami Bandele, Executive Director of the YWCA Greater Triangle; Jean Hedges, Founder and Executive Director of Women's Power Networking as well as Senior Loan Advisor at Prime Lending; Pat Howlett, Creator of and President of The Howlett Group. With the competition including essay, interview and speech presentation components, this was an excellent opportunity to review my accomplishments thus far. Therefore, I'm using this week's post to share with you my "tell us your story" speech, hoping you enjoy reading these insights as much as I had fun presenting them during the event. And, without further adieu, here's my speech from last night's Young Careerist competition:

Some people read minds. Some people read lips. I read between the lines... or so I've been told... In 2007, I created my very own business, Organize for Success, using laser-sharp focusing methods to help business people, just like you. As a professional organizer, it is my responsibility to empower clients with a few essential skills. For your listening pleasure, I present them in alphabetical order:
- Skill number 1... Finding what you need when you need it.
- Skill number 2... Getting more done in less time.
- Skill number 3... Taming your technological tools.

But I don't stop with my clients... I believe it's critically important to give back to the community, and here are three ways I'm serving our community, again, presented in alphabetical order:
- 1st, I'm the incoming President for the North Carolina chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers... NAPO for short.
- 2nd, I serve as the Media Coordinator for the North Carolina Lung Cancer Partnership.
- 3rd, I am the Secretary for the Triangle Alumnae Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta.

Before we go any further, a little background info so you'll know a little bit more about where I've come from to get to this point...
I am one of seven children, and my parents were married 35 years.
I am a graduate of Wake Forest University...
I'm a sports-aholic who roots hard for my Demon Deacons (a little tougher this year but I'll always stick with them through thick and thin).
I lost my father to lung cancer one year ago this month.
And, as a Marketing Director for local automobile dealerships, I am a woman working in a man's world, often joking that I created Organize for Success to escape the male-dominated world of automobile dealerships.

I believe I am a good mentor... There are a lot of young women who want to and need to learn how to be successful in a man's world. In other words, with a little coaching, GEN-X and GEN-Y women can easily hit home runs, score game-winning 3-point shots and run entire football fields to score touchdowns... All while wearing Spanx!

I stress the fact that many of today's businesswomen believe they have to walk, talk and act like a man to be successful. On the contrary, I believe it's important for businesswomen to embrace being women while still relating to the goals, thought-processes and communication styles of the men with whom they work.

My marketing background, my organizational skills and my appreciation of the sports world enable me to "get it"; plus, coming from a large family, I really know how to share... and sharing this knowledge is exactly what I plan to do with business and professional women of Raleigh and beyond. I hope to help many young women in business read between the lines, helping them to not settle for bronze or silver but go for the gold medal.

How would you answer the request of "tell us your story" and have you reflected on your accomplishments recently?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Using One Calendar to Organize for Success

Whether it's paper or electronic, a single solution enables tracking all commitments (personal & professional) in one place, making it less likely that appointments will be forgotten or that you will double-book. However, how do you make a calendar really operate as a tool to encourage your great success? Here are tips to best utilize a calendar:

1. Use what works for you. Test options to see if your personality meshes best with daily, weekly or monthly and whether paper or electronic is best for you. Find more about the process at
  • Electronic calendars give you the option of setting alerts for upcoming events, which is ideal if you tend to forget birthdays, anniversaries or leaving for meetings and appointments. Look for repeat features that let you input daily, weekly, monthly or annual data only once.
  • Paper calendars often allow for more easily viewing the entire month at one glance, and the fact that you can write in whatever size you choose enables you to decide how much information fits within each date's box.
2. Color-code your calendar. To have one calendar tool for all facets of your life, use different colors for each (work vs family vs friends vs fitness vs self). Or use a different color for each project being completed, role you fill, person for whom you are responsible or different area of responsibility within your job. Visual cues, like colors, are great for driving action, particularly so you can tell what needs to be done by simply glancing at your calendar solution.

3. Include all pertinent details for each entry. When adding an appointment to your calendar tool, insert the phone number next to the name of the person you are meeting so, if you're running late, you can easily call. Plus, make sure to include the who, what, when, where and why beside each appointment being scheduled on your calendar.

4. Track to-do items amidst appointments. A calendar solution can be so much more than just a place to track appointments. To use your tool most effectively, assign a "when" for each "what" on your to-do list. I have yet to find a "someday" on any calendar, but I have seen how tasks with times scheduled for getting done are completed more regularly.

5. Always expect the unexpected. If you know precisely how long something should take, schedule it in your calendar with a 15-minute or greater buffer. You never know when traffic or another hurdle will delay your plans so approach proactively.

What techniques do you use to maximize your calendar's effectiveness? Please share in the Comments section below.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March is National Caffeine Awareness Month

To celebrate National Caffeine Awareness Month, increase your productivity while combating your need for caffeine with these tactics:

1. Get enough sleep... Most adults need 7 to 8 hours a night for the best amount of sleep, although some people may need as few as five hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep nightly.

2. Perform some simple stretches to get your body active, including your mind, your heart, your blood flow and your metabolism. For examples of such useful stretches, visit

3. Sit up straight and take a few deep breaths from way down in your gut. Oxygen fuels your brain, and deep breaths get even more oxygen to your brain, activating it for work all the better.

4. Soak up some fresh air and sunlight with a quick walk outdoors or around your building... The vitamin D from sunlight is great for boosting moods; plus, as you move your body, you get a little more energized.

5. Move to a different location, whether it's moving from your office to a conference room, leaving your home for a coffeehouse or just shifting from one side of the room to the other.

6. Hydrate with lots of water... Since 60% or more of your body weight comes from fluids, staying hydrated is necessary for optimum performance. And, if you need some extra flavor, just toss in a Crystal Light packet.

7. Instead of letting it slow you down, fill "down time" with smaller projects that can be done quickly. Just like the saying of "a rolling stone gathers no moss", it's easier to be active when already active... So, if you don't have time to complete a project, at least get started and leave it out for when you can pick your work back up again.

8. Eat foods that increase your energy rather than those that cause a slump an hour after eating. Eating things like whole-wheat bread, strawberries, broccoli, pork and bananas will help keep energy levels more constant and consistent.

9. Listen to some energizing music. Music is a powerful tool, particularly for affecting emotion, so handle with care but utilize it fully. As a huge fan of music, I find it to be a very effective tool, like "Celebration" by Kool & The Gang or "All I Want To Do" by Sugarland. For other examples of energizing music, visit

Are any of these strategies you are using right now to re-energize? And, if you have ideas for other ways to increase your productivity without the use of caffeine, please share those in the Comments section below.