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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What steps are you taking to protect your clients', vendors', employees' and own data?

In the United States & Canada, today is Data Privacy Day; in Europe, it is referred to as Data Protection Day. Yet, regardless of from where you are reading this post, you must understand the importance of addressing data privacy and using data protection best practices. Has your company set a data privacy policy? Are you personally utilizing best practices for protecting your data, keeping it safe, secure and private? How do you address your clients', vendors' and employees' need for data protection? Many tech tools promote individual control over personally identifiable information, but there are many details to be considered, such as these:

  • Has your business incorporated technological innovations to protect what information is stored in your system and shared between your team members?
  • Have you reviewed the privacy settings on each of your social media platforms, verifying that you are sharing with others only the information you'd like displayed to them?
  • Have you set each of your online accounts to require two-factor authentication so any account accessed by a device the platform doesn't recognize will be asked for a verification code?
  • Do you use a unique and complex password for each account? How often do you reset each?
  • Have you created a habit for logging out immediately upon finishing use of any account?
  • Have you strengthened your passwords to include both uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols, creating a habit to change or update them regularly?
  • Has your business enacted transparency on usage so your constituents are very clear about the manner in which you will be utilizing whatever information they share with you? People want to know with whom their data is being shared, what type of data is being collected from them and how the data is being used; are you proactively answering those questions?
  • Do you get consent from folks in a photo prior to sharing it?
  • As cookies are used to remember and track your online data, habits and preferences, does your business have a policy for their utilization, particularly how often they are to be deleted?
  • Do you stop and think before utilizing public WiFi, remembering that it is not a secure connection and avoiding transactions that should be kept private?
  • Have you set-up your mobile devices so you can easily shut each down remotely if stolen or lost? Do you have antivirus software installed on each of your mobile devices? Further, when replacing a mobile device, do you know how to dump data off the old one?
Above all else, though, it is imperative to be aware of what data you're posting online. As explained in the cyber privacy parable at, there are many folks able to access what you post online, way beyond those friends or connections with whom you consciously know you are sharing. Advertisers, news outlets, governments and criminals alike are interested in what you are posting, but you have control over what information you put out there.

Further, as outlined at, there are activities for which people are willing to trade privacy to get ease of use. Be aware of this feedback so you can adapt your processes accordingly, but never take advantage of how your consumers feel, trading privacy for ease of use only when it is absolutely necessary. If you want customers to trust you, it is important for you to respect their personal data. In what instances can you offer both privacy and ease of use?

What is your business' data policy? What steps are you taking to protect your own data? How do you address your clients', vendors' and employees' need for keeping data safe, secure and private?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Is It Time to Re-Start Your New Year's Resolutions?

Every January, we flip the page to a new calendar year, and many of us attempt to write a new story on the blank pages of a new year. We set goals and make resolutions, like "spend less, save more", "quit smoking", "get fit and stay healthy", "lose weight", "enjoy life to the fullest", "workout more", "work less" and "get organized". As National Get Organized Month, each January is the perfect time to GO and get started on these endeavors; however, if you get sidetracked or fall short of sticking with your resolutions, it's okay.

Have you had a bit of backsliding as related to your 2015 resolutions? Did you miss a scheduled workout as you are working to get in better shape? Did you forget to sort last week's stack of mail as you are working to get more organized? Don't fret! Instead, just start your efforts back up again.

If you were driving from Florida to Maine and got lost in North Carolina, would you simply turn around and return to Florida? Not likely. Instead, you'd probably just find your way and continue traveling to your destination. Achieving goals, meeting objectives and keeping resolutions can be exactly the same.

Be easy on yourself, don't feel guilty if you have setbacks, and, above all, do not give up. Your best bet for success is to break your goal into small, realistic steps and grow into your transformation. If you slide a bit, keep trying. I know you will eventually get there.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Top 10 Ways To Make Email a Better Productivity Tool

Did you know that the average business professional gets at least 150 new emails each workday? I have clients that can easily reach 300 or 400 new emails on any given day, and many of them feel strongly that handling email is a very time-consuming aspect of the workday... Wow! It can make you wonder how any real work gets done amidst simply reading all those messages.

While there are countless tools and techniques that'll help you use email to organize for success while getting more done in less time and quickly finding what you need, here are a few solutions I have found to offer the greatest results:

1. Shift your mentality from "checking" to "processing" your email so your email inbox is no longer a holding zone:

  • Tasks taking less than 5 minutes should be done when the message is received while tasks taking longer should be added to your running to-do list
  • Appointment requests should be moved to your calendar
  • Reference emails should be quickly moved to personal folders
  • Trash is not really junk and should be moved to the trash

2. If the average person needs anywhere from 3 to 8 minutes or more to really refocus after any distraction, don't make email a distraction; think of OHIO and "only handle it once" for each message, including reading and processing each email.

3. It is easier to quickly find what you need when you need it if you aren't searching through electronic clutter; therefore, there is no need to hold onto whatever is no longer accurate, applicable, useful or bringing you joy. Further, when determining what to save or delete, consider what can be easily located online later... There's no need to take up valuable space on your computer when you can easily find that information online whenever it is needed.

4. Send fewer emails to get fewer emails back. Although it sounds simple when stated like that, we are in a society trained to quickly shoot out an email when we need to tell or ask someone something. This can be excellent for having documentation of your communications; however, one simple phone call can element quite a bit of back-and-forth when the topic is more complex or when you need an answer to included questions.

5. Unsubscribe from eNewsletters you aren't reading; otherwise, consider culling subscriptions you maintain and stay up-to-date reading in a daily "roll-up" or "bundle" via

6. Master the art of creating reference folders by having enough that each email to be kept has a home while limiting the number of folders so no one email could appropriately fit in multiple. If you struggle with where to file a message upon its receipt, how will you ever be able to locate it again later?

7. Utilize automated rules to sort email into folders... Highlight what needs time-sensitive attention by directing it into a folder designated to that particular sender or subject line topic. Cull together what can be attended to more conveniently on a later date and time, setting messages from that sender to bypass the inbox and go to a separate Personal Folder all their own.

8. Better employ all the features offered by your email management tool, like Delay Send, Send Again, Meeting Requests and renaming your received emails' subject lines.

9. If you have been emailing someone back and forth, each subsequent email contains all the content of the prior emails so keep only the most recent message in a conversation; in newer versions of Outlook, clear such clutter with the "clean-up" button on Outlook's home ribbon.

10. If an out-of-date email address keeps populating when you are trying to send a message, there are options for removing an erroneous email address. As you start typing in Outlook's "to" field, press the down arrow to highlight the erroneous address and, then, hit DELETE; in Mac Mail, populate the erroneous address in an new email message and, then, click the arrow on the far right to select "Remove from Previous Recipients". Problem solved!

I'm working on an eBook about how to "Use Email to Organize for Success and Get More Done in Less Time" and could use your input... What techniques have made it easier for you to management your email?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hold Your Team Accountable For Greater Success

According to, accountability is the state of being liable, answerable or subject to the obligation of reporting, explaining or justifying something. Basically, accountability means having to answer for one's actions. In business, leaders who hold their employees accountable are telling their teams "behave knowing in advance you will have to explain yourself and that your actions will have consequences". If team members know that they will have to explain actions taken to the leader or other team members, typically, those employees will make better decisions, better carry their portions of the workload and be better team members, leading to greater success for the team overall.

As a leader, you have big, hairy, audacious goals for your team; however, it is much more difficult (if not impossible) to meet those goals when your team members are not on the same page, not working towards the same objectives and not carrying their respective shares of the workload. Instead of success, the results are more like a rowing team with members not rowing in tandem or in the same direction at the same time: you start spinning in circles, not moving at all or moving backwards. Sadness!

Ensure folks are on the same page, working towards the same objectives and carrying their respective shares of the workload by holding each member of your team accountable, both for the elements in their job descriptions as well as the core values to be exhibited by members of your team. To facilitate that accountability, you must do the following:

  • determine when each team member will need to report back to you and explain his or her actions
  • determine what consequences will occur when completed actions fulfill versus do not fulfill the leader's and team's necessary functions
  • inform team members of what you have determined
  • follow through on getting those explanations when deemed appropriate and carrying out the subsequent consequences, whether rewards or punishments

Beyond those initial steps, for a system of accountability to truly succeed, I've found that your employees must trust and believe there is a fair and accurate process for keeping track of their actions as well as tying their behavior to real consequences. I believe such a scenario can be created with regular checkins of the leader directly connecting with each team member, ongoing open communication and a concerted emphasis on feedback from employees leading to action on your part.

As you develop a culture of accountability and the habits of holding team members accountable, remember the following key points:

  • Employees will assume their behavior is correct unless it is corrected... Set expectations clearly.
  • Holding people accountable is only 90% communication and problem-solving; the other 10% is the discipline to keep at it and follow through. No, this aspect of discipline and follow through is certainly not easy; however, it is vital.
  • You as the leader may never feel truly comfortable holding your team members accountable; there may always be a point of hesitation right before you hold someone accountable for their actions where a voice inside your head says "Maybe I should let this slide..." However, your responsibility as a leader is to forge ahead for the greater good of the team's success.

As leaders and managers, often, our main fear in holding people accountable is that our interaction with that person will turn emotional, whether angry, sad or something else. To move beyond that hesitation, understand that emotion can be a good thing as it will drive change to take place.

Take steps TODAY to start laying the groundwork for your team's greater success:

  • Clearly spell out expectations in advance.
  • Track employee performance every step of the way.
  • Follow through with real consequences based on whether or not your employee's actual performance meets your conveyed expectations.
  • Focus hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually on actions the team member can truly control.
Bottom line, just get started... Sometimes, simply asking team members to explain their actions each day is a great foundation on which to build and will develop habits needed for meeting higher goals. You need information in order to hold your team members accountable so start asking questions... What have you been working on today? What successes can we celebrate? What hurdles have you faced so we can overcome them? What do you see as our team's immediate needs, short-term goals and long-term vision? What role do you see yourself playing in our group's successes? How can I help you be a bigger part of the group's successes? With more information, movement can be made, but the key is to get started.

How do you utilize accountability now? Have you seen greater success by holding team members accountable? How can you implement greater accountability?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Boost Your Credibility and Productivity By Celebrating National Clean Off Your Desk Day

Happy National Clean Off Your Desk Day! Addressing the top of your desk can be important for several reasons, but I highlight the two I find most important and that pop-up most frequently in today's workspaces... First, now that more offices are open, collaborative spaces, fellow team members and office visitors can more easily see exactly how clean you keep your space; from that visual, people make assessments, and your credibility can be put into question. Second, your productivity depends on efficiently finding what you need when you need it; unfortunately, when your desk is covered with active and archive files, it can be more difficult to quickly put your hands on what you or your colleagues might need from amidst the chaos. Have no fear! There are steps you can take today to celebrate National Clean Off Your Desk Day which will positively impact your credibility and productivity, leading to more success in the near future.

1. Consider the available space in your office as you would a real estate investment, where "location, location, location" matters. Keep only those items used daily on your desktop; then, position items further and further away based on being used less and less frequently.

2. Often, the clutter atop your desk represents lingering decisions and unaddressed to-do items; therefore, assign homes to what active and archive items are in your space so they can always be put back in their homes when you are not currently using them. Work happens on your desk so you'll need to bring out the files being used for that work when it's happening; yet, when you know in what homes those items belong, you can more easily put them back away when not in use. Then, take the last 15 or so minutes in each day as a "check-up from the neck up" to wrap up your day, returning anything atop your desk to where it belongs and setting out whatever, items will be needed first-thing the next day. Knowing in what "homes" your items below helps to tie up all loose ends, adding resolution to the end of your day, and prepares you for the next day's priorities.

3. The more you keep then the more you have to peruse through in order to find what you need at any moment in time. Therefore, edit out any unnecessary items. Keep only what is accurate, applicable, useful and bringing you joy. Also, consider eliminating anything that can easily be found again online.

4. Be strategic in where you store what items you choose to keep. If you have a running list of all unfinished tasks, there's no need to keep their related files atop your desk; however, if they are active projects, you'll want to keep their files handy for easy access. When items are related, it's important to keep those items together, focusing on "like with like" for quick recovery when working on that to which they are related. Remember that "horizontal is hidden while vertical is visible", and utilize walls or the back of your door whenever possible; those areas can be valuable real estate, particularly as you are assigning homes to items in your workspace. Finally, utilize containers to limit the amount of any item to be retained; once the container is full, it's time to edit out unnecessary contents.

5. Since people, priorities and current projects continually evolve, no organizational system is ever completely finished. Therefore, continually evaluate how your office organization is working and adjust to meet evolving needs. As your situation changes, adjust accordingly.

Take a moment to look around right now. Does your desktop need a little TLC? If so, what steps can you take right now to celebrate National Clean Off Your Desk Day? Please share your success stories below... or read others' to get motivated for your own.

Friday, January 2, 2015

It's Not Too Late To Get Clear For The New Year

Each of us has only 1,440 minutes in each day, meaning 10,080 minutes in each week and just 525,600 minutes in each year to accomplish all we desire. Time is a limited resource so it is imperative that each of us manages our actions within the limited time we have to maximize it. Throughout the month of December, I shared with you a series of blog posts and related videos to assist you in making 2015 your best year thus far. The new year may have already kicked off; however, if you haven't already, you can still take action in organizing for your greatest success this year.

A. Verify your clarity in regards to priorities, goals and objectives.

  1. Click here for the strategic-planning questions that must be answered to derive your current priorities; then, create a goal for each of the determined priorities that is supported by a SMART objective, meaning Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related.
  2. Practice being strategic and proactive about which items you choose to give your limited time, utilizing the tactics shared here to say "no" when opportunities do not align with your priorities. Make time in your schedule for what brings you joy and matters most, realizing that every "yes" you offer means a "no" to something else; you'll want to be choosy with a "yes" reply.
B. Implement the following productivity tools to support your efforts in proactive scheduling:
  1. Weekly Strategy Session = Evaluate which of the prior week's tasks were left undone and determine when each can be rescheduled; review the upcoming week's commitments to ensure you're prepared for each task or appointment; determine growth opportunities, and map out a plan for proactively addressing your top priorities.
  2. Morning Jumpstart = Enter each day with 3 - 5 "must-do" items, and, then, start with the most difficult or vital task, maybe one that you've been avoiding which will bring great relief by accomplishing; take each element of any project step-by-step so it's manageable and feasible.
  3. End-of-Day Wrap-Up = Prepare the next day's "must-do" list, accounting for what didn't get done during the current day; verify you're prepared for everything on the next day's agenda; get end-of-day updates from your team, tidy up your workspace and reflect on your day's greatest success, making note of that for which you're grateful.
C. Capitalize on the Power of One with one of each productivity tool listed below:
  1. One calendar to include personal and professional, whether paper or electronic
  2. One place for all your to-do items, pulling daily must-do items from a running list of tasks
  3. One "data dump" so you search one place for everything that might need to be referenced
  4. One address book / contact relationship management tool
  5. One weekly strategy session as outlined above
D. Prepare your calendar solution for optimum success
  1. Make sure your calendar is equipped with all the holidays, birthdays, important events and reminders you'll need throughout the new year, adding alerts as needed.
  2. Get in a habit of documenting all activities; our brains are more for thinking than remembering.
E. Address any issues existing with your contacts solution
  1. Make sure all your contacts are in one place, whether personal or professional connections.
  2. Double-check that each contact record has the most up-to-date information, like phone number, email address, job title, place of employment and relevant notes; consider apps like EasilyDo, Humin, Sync.ME, Brewster, EverContact and FullContact to make that process easier.
  3. Develop a system for continually inputting updated or additional information.
  4. Click here to evaluate going from an address book to a Contact Relationship Manager.
F. Organize your morning routine to establish a proper foundation for a successful day ahead.
  1. End each night by planning for the next day's morning.
  2. Remove unnecessary actions from your morning routine.
  3. Streamline your processes for getting ready, including the addition of a "drop zone" by door.
  4. Make the most of every minute, giving consideration to how good health impacts productivity.
G. Clean out and organize your workspace so it is a powerful tool in your productivity toolbox.
  1. Take time to edit the contents, whether paper, electronic or objects, and retain only what's accurate, applicable, useful or bringing you joy.
  2. Address what emails you get daily, unsubscribing from what you no longer read and considering a bundle via for those you do read regularly.
  3. Verify everything to remain is strategically assigned a "home" and that you have a solution for what's to arrive.
What steps have you taken or will you take now to make 2015 your best year thus far? What is your vision for the new year, and how will you proactively prepare for success in it making that happen?