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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

September Is The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Back in 1963, Andy Williams recorded and released "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" as a Christmas song. However, I would argue quite differently that September is the most wonderful time of the year for me... Most of this month is summer, which typically leads to very favorable weather here in North Carolina, many of my favorite fruits and vegetables are in season, like apples, broccoli, cucumbers, peaches and squash, it's an excellent time to visit Atlantic Coast beaches without 4th of July crowds, I can finally enjoy football and college soccer while getting quite competitive in NFL Fantasy Football... and, very importantly, my birthday is September 20th. Such happiness!

Yet, I think what keeps me most energized throughout this month of the year would have to be how busy I am with my absolutely fabulous clients. I'm reminded frequently how lucky I am to partner with such amazing professionals, and here are just a few of the wonderful things about my clients:

1. Clients of Organize for Success, LLC are passionate about doing excellent work, constantly improving and ongoing learning. I come away from client sessions and workshops enthused by the excitement and eagerness clients share for using my suggestions to become and do better.

2. They are genuinely nice. I have quite a bit of direct interaction with my clients, investing my time, talents and energies in their betterment, and I can attest to how nice they are to me, to other partners, to their co-workers and to their team members.

3. Clients of Organize for Success, LLC like to have fun. While developing habits or learning skills necessary for boosting their productivity might not be their ideal way to spend some time, my clients see the value in these activities and choose to make the process enjoyable. It can be contagious!

4. They are exceptionally great partners. When working together, it is clear that my clients have a respect for what I bring to the table similar to my respect for their unique skill sets and strong work ethic. I know that, together, we can make a difference, and my clients are willing to put forth the effort necessary for fueling real change in their productivity and organization.

5. Clients of Organize for Success, LLC are appreciative. It really is nice to know that my work is helping my clients, and I get notes, calls or comments to reinforce those success stories regularly.

This September, as I celebrate turning another year older, I'm also celebrating how truly blessed I am. All of you busy professionals, entrepreneurs, corporate teams and executives with whom I partner are really awesome, and I'm so appreciative of the confidence you entrust in me daily. Thank you!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Eliminate Distractions to Organize for Greater Success

Do you find your thoughts drifting when you need to focus on important tasks? Do you get pulled in a hundred directions when you are time-crunched to finish a project? Are there constantly different people, places and things pulling your attention in various directions? It might be time to evaluate your tactics for eliminating distractions and come up with new solutions.

While there are many tactics for eliminating distractions that have withstood the test of time, here are a dozen strategies I have found to provide the greatest success:

- If you are working within a specific program on your computer, like Microsoft WordQuickBooksMailChimp or your Customer Relationship Manager, open that particular program up to full screen so you have less visible distractions from other programs.

- Turn off the pings and dings that notify you of new social media shares or incoming email messages, empowering you to be in control of when information is handled, not whoever is sending that information to you.

- Utilize Leechblock on FirefoxStayFocused on ChromeSelfControl on Mac or Keep Me Out across various different Internet browsers, each designed to block you from specific websites for a specific amount of time or limit the amount of time you are allowed on specified sites each day.

- Create a specific game plan for your day, giving you a path to stay focused and on task. Likewise, while the specified times vary from person to person, schedule your most important tasks for the times in your day that you are at peak performance and have the most energy.

- Whether you use a pen and paper or an electronic tool, allow your brain to think, rather than remember, by getting those many different tidbits that must be remembered out of your head. 

 - Employ RescueTime to determine where you might be wasting time and, then, trim the fat.

- Schedule clearly defined “office hours” for when you’ll be available to distracting co-workers, team members and partners who need you; during other times that you have designated for focusing on important tasks at hand, consider wearing headphones as a deterrent to guests, explaining that “I’m working hard now” and encouraging them to come back later. Moreover, when times are exceptionally crazed, some consider putting caution tape across their office doorways as the ultimate deterrent for those hoping to stop by for a chat.

- Learn to say no to drop-in visitors; alternatively, when you can’t say “no” or “not right now”, utilize a timer to create boundaries for how long the conversation can last.

- Group “like with like” for activities, like processing emails, returning phone calls and checking for updates from your team members. With batching, you’ll power through these tasks like a champ!

- When scheduling appointments and meetings, be sure to keep efforts focused by setting an end time along with a start time, empowering you with a set limit for how long to proceed.

- Keep the tools you need most frequently and / or most urgently closest to where you work.

- Utilize breaks strategically. As a growing body of evidence shows, “taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity… and that skipping breaks can lead to stress and exhaustion.” Ideally, you focus intently on work for 50 minutes, followed by a 10-minute break, and, then, repeat to get through your super productive day. If not so frequently, consider taking a break every 2 hours; go for a walk or eat a snack to focus better.

With what distractions do you struggle most? What tools and tactics have you found to be most successful in eliminating unnecessary distractions?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Happy National Fight Procrastination Day!

Today is the day to look back at what new year's resolutions you haven't addressed, pull out that running list of all you want to do so you can find something you’ve been avoiding and simply get started. That’s all I ask… Just get started. Take the first step toward success.

The rationale behind procrastinating might be endless, but each reason is something you can overcome. Some folks procrastinate because they are overwhelmed, don’t know how to get started or can’t prioritize to determine what should be addressed first. In fact, I’m a little amazed by all the support offered on this site for procrastinators to continue procrastinating. Yet, sometimes, completing the task at hand can be as simple as starting.

- Break projects into smaller, bite-sized actions.

- Set deadlines for each of those specific tasks.

- Ask for help or direction on anything that is confusing or unclear.

- Hold yourself accountable for meeting the designated deadlines.

- Assign rewards for celebrating successful completion of listed tasks. 

As Mark Twain once wrote, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” While those words can be reassuring to any procrastinator, the successful folks that spout out “get ‘er done” do not subscribe to Mark Twain’s philosophy. They know the importance of getting started.

As Fight Procrastination Day, today is the day to get things done… Today, you will accomplish something, big or small; cross it off your to-do list and feel empowered by moving forward. Make a decision. Take action. Do something. 

What will you do today to fight procrastination? What will be the to-do you tackle, big or small?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How Mobile Professionals Sync Email, Contacts, Tasks & Calendars Across Devices to be More Productive

Busy professionals in today’s workforce are expected to be available 24/7, and mobile devices make it possible to work on-the-go. Whether at home, in a vehicle, working from the airport, in a coffee shop, meeting with a client, staying at a hotel or somewhere in between, a mobile worker needs to be able to deliver the same level of customer service and quality work at all times, which involves heavy phone usage as well as reliable access to the Internet, your email and what resources are available in your office. Still, whether you prefer AndroidBlackberryiPhone or Windows for your smartphone, it is valuable only when you sync your email, contacts, tasks and calendars across your various devices, which can be rather challenging, particularly for those using Outlook as the central hub for email, contacts, tasks and calendars.

There are two standard email protocols for pulling your email from the email server to whatever tool you are using to manage your messages: POP (Post Office Protocol) simply downloads email to your computer and, usually, deletes the original message from the remote server. When using POP across more than one device, you have to delete or file each individual email on every device; plus, none of the folders created on one device show on any other devices. Alternatively, IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) allows users to store their email on remote servers, which is a two-way protocol that allows for synchronizing email across multiple devices. A simple search of “POP versus IMAP” on your preferred Internet browser can outline the numerous differences. Yet, the conundrum related to syncing your email across devices, including Outlook, can be resolved simply by switching your email account from POP to IMAP, and you can find step-by-step instructions to walk you through this process online at

When talking about options for syncing, that related to contacts and calendar requires a different approach. If you are using exclusively Apple tools, meaning you are syncing between a MacBook laptop, iPhone, iPad and Mac desktop computer, all of your contacts and calendar events will sync seamlessly by using iCloud; however, if you are syncing any of these Apple iOS mobile devices with Outlook on your MacBook laptop or Mac desktop computer, it will require a third-party tool. One excellent option for syncing Outlook with your iPhone, iPad and iPad Mini is Sync2, and you can learn more about how this works as well as download the tool by clicking here. Another excellent option for syncing Outlook with your iPhone and iPad is CompanionLink, and you can learn more about what this will sync between devices as well as how to set it up by clicking here.

To sync contacts and calendar from an Outlook account to your Android, Blackberry or Windows device or between various PC computers can be a little more complicated than using iCloud for Apple-only devices. Until August 1, 2014, you might’ve been using Google Sync to complete such data transfer; although that is no longer an option, there are several third-party tools that can help… 
CompanionLink syncs Outlook data wirelessly through Google’s services or via a WiFi network through the DejaOffice suite of apps. Private records may be password protected and encrypted, providing the highest level of security available, and updates are free for life.
Sync2 synchronizes your Outlook calendar, tasks and contacts with Google calendar, tasks and Gmail contacts, which, then, can synchronize with your Android device’s calendar and contacts, and Android users add a Google account when first setting up the phone. 
Funambol Sync offers open source options. From this site, simply download whichever client applies to your tools and devices; then, once install is complete and the Funambol Outlook Sync Client opens, configure your sync settings under Tools and Options.
HyperOffice provides a powerful alternative to Microsoft Exchange… While it can include many other collaboration tools, HyperOffice can sync documents, calendars, contacts, projects and tasks for teams or individuals alike. Compare its pricing options by clicking here.
The Missing Sync from MarkSpace connects your Android, iPhone or Palm smartphone with your PC or Mac computer. For Android, it is exceptionally robust, including Outlook, Address Book and iCal, providing options via Bluetooth, WiFi or USB to transfer and sync data.

While the aforementioned tools of CompanionLink, Sync2, HyperOffice and MarkSpace offer options to sync your tasks from Outlook across various mobile devices, there are also plenty of task-focused apps available to help. First, remember a project is a compilation of tasks that are necessary for achieving a major undertaking while a task is a clearly defined piece of work for which a specific individual is held accountable. Second, the benefits of tracking tasks electronically include (1) automatic carryover for any items left incomplete following their scheduled due dates, (2) reminders that pop-up to nudge you in completing the action required and (3) easily scheduling completion of the designated task to recur at specific times in the future. With that in mind, applicable tools for syncing tasks across devices include Any.DoRemember The MilkPocket Informant as well as Wunderlist. Applicable tools for syncing projects include AsanaMavenlink and Teamwork PM. See which option best meets your needs and implement fully.

Alternatively, if you are looking to sync Outlook between two computers (like between your PC and that of your assistant, your spouse or your business partner), CodeTwo Outlook Sync enables you to sync Outlook calendars, contacts, tasks, email and documents between those two selected computers. If you are looking to sync Outlook calendars, contacts and tasks with the iCloud system on your iPhone, iPad or Mac, CodeTwo Sync for iCloud works well. Still, if you are looking to sync tasks from Outlook to your Android phone, SymTasks offers a great option for bridging data; adding SymTasks Outlook Sync to your computer will sync your Microsoft Outlook Tasks over to a SymTasks app on your Android device.

One word of caution… If you are on an exchange and, thereby, need a tool for syncing only tasks (not calendars or contacts), please pay close attention when establishing your settings, making sure to check off tasks for activation while not checking either contacts or calendar. Each tool that covers all three of those options will allow you to pick and choose which of the syncing tools you’d like activated; just be clear upfront about what you need from the set-up.

Finally, before you download and install any of the outlined options, review the associated privacy policy, making sure you are comfortable with what it outlines and that it meshes with what your company has outlined for records management or confidentiality guidelines.

Have you better optimized your productivity by syncing email, contacts, tasks and calendars across your various devices? If so, with which have you had the most success?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Do You Know The Real Reason We Celebrate Labor Day?

Each year, on the first Monday of September, Americans celebrate Labor Day, which is an acknowledgment of "the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers”, according to the United States Department of Labor. Back in the 1800s, per, “the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living”. Since the working conditions were unsafe and unsanitary while management treated all employees poorly, labor unions were created, and improvements followed. As outlined by, the efforts of labor unions to drive such change didn’t happen easily and were associated with all sorts of violence and chaos. It is by surviving such battles to achieve the better work environments that now exist where we can find reason to celebrate. We celebrate our “right-to-work” state where we have clean facilities and earn benefits.

This Labor Day, take a moment to reflect upon all the contributions workers have made to build up the strength, prosperity and well-being of the United States of America. Whether via labor unions, the efforts of groups with the same interests or simply individuals paving the way for a better situation, there are many and varied benefits that our workforce has which do not exist in other countries. No matter if you are at home, on vacation or laboring at work, you can help to honor American workers and our enhanced conditions. 

What are YOU doing today for your Labor Day holiday?