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

Sunday, February 28, 2016

7-Step Sunday Checklist for a More Productive Week

Being born September 20th, I am a Virgo, and, as such, I have a need to organize what's in my mind, utilizing checklists as needed to keep my mind on track. Even if you aren't naturally a planner, I believe it's important to enter a new week with a game plan so you make every minute matter and attack your goals proactively rather than reacting to what's asked of you. Yes, it's important to take time over the weekend to recharge and relax. Yes, if you are religious, weekends are important times for worship. However, investing a little bit of time each Sunday in the following can pay off immensely by laying the foundation for a productive week ahead. Make time today to address each of the following:

1. Write down your goals for the week. Our brains are meant for thinking, not remembering; therefore, it's important to document what you need to recall later. Determining your priority tasks and listing them out enables you to know what needs to be achieved, set deadlines and be more likely to get things done. If you've already completed your Weekly Strategy Session, you have a game plan, but, if not, at the very least, take time to list out your goals for priority tasks to complete in the week ahead.

2. Create a blank slate for completing your priorities. Return to their homes the items atop your desk that you have been using for work. Put away the papers and objects in your "to file" stack. Move into folders the random selection of documents downloaded to your computer's desktop. Return your email to the desired "inbox zero" status (or as close as possible). Clear your clutter!

3. Get a head start on your marketing tactics for this week. Can you draft, edit or add photos to what blog posts will go live? Can you schedule some of the content to be posted on your social media channels? If you have networking events to attend, can you check out the registration lists to see with whom you need to connect? Have you or your team placed what advertising buys are needed? Take action now to double-check what's up so you don't worry later about what might've fallen through the cracks.

4. Plan from where your meals will come. We each need to eat regularly to stay alive, but waiting until we're hungry to figure out what we'll eat can be a recipe for poor eating. Instead, take time to plan your meals, incorporating options for using a slow-cooker, cooking mass amounts over the weekend for meals throughout the week, ways in which the same elements can be reused in different ways and pre-packing lunches. Assuming you eat 3 meals each day, there are 21 opportunities for creatively streamlining.

5. Lay out each day's outfit for the week ahead. Check the forecast and pick out each detail of what will be necessary so you aren't scrambling in the morning. This should include what purse to carry, what jewelry to wear and what undergarments are needed. Plus, I find this is an excellent opportunity to make sure everything in my closet is hung or in the basket where it is supposed to be; an organized closet makes it so much easier to find what's needed for that perfect outfit you'll need at this week's big presentation.

6. Connect with those who matter. Outreach on social media to share content that might be of value to a friend, congratulate someone for a big accomplishment from the week ending or say hey to a contact you've been missing. Better yet, get together in-person or via video chat with someone who is special to you; spending time with people who know or love you will fuel your soul and re-enforce your identity. Then, talk through logistics with your family; since we all wear many hats, working through commitments with your spouse, kids or roommates will make sure folks get where they need to go with what is needed while managing how much stress is experienced. We don't want preschool calling in a panic because someone got left behind, right?

7. Wash and change your bed sheets as well as your bath towel. I recently saw someone post about the pure joy she felt when jumping into bed on Sunday with clean sheets so that's becoming my new habit, rather than washing them on Saturday or another night of the week. Such an excellent idea!

What steps do you take over the weekend to prepare for the week ahead? Will you be starting any of those listed above? What tactic do you find most helpful in being proactive?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Baker’s Dozen Rules for Proper Time Management

How do you handle managing your time? Do you have a philosophy or best practices by which you swear for time management?

If you’ve been reading my blog awhile, you know I believe in managing our actions and the tools at our disposal rather than talking about time management as there’s nothing we can do to change how each day is limited to only 1,440 minutes. Still, this National Time Management Month is a great time to discuss some basic principles for best investing our limited time.

Here are some of what I recommend as basic principles for investing your time and, thereby, making every minute matter:

1. Saying yes to doing one thing means no to another. As time is a limited resource, we cannot invest the same minutes in multiple ways, and we can’t get back what minutes we’ve already invested elsewhere.

2. Be proactive in planning how to invest your time with monthly reviews of what’s upcoming, weekly strategy sessions to draft plans and daily wrap-ups.

3. Assign a “when” to each “what” to get more done. I have yet to find a calendar with “someday” but I complete tasks for which I’ve set aside time.

4. Plan no more than 3 – 5 “must-do” tasks per day. It is easy to feel like we are superheroes who can complete endless lists of to-do items; however, we are all human and can do only so much with what time we are gifted daily.

5. Enlist your energy level as a productivity tool. If your energy peaks first-thing in the morning, you may choose to tackle your most difficult tasks first; however, if your energy peaks later in the workday, you may prefer to start with easier tasks and build momentum to do your more difficult work later.

6. Align your actions with your priorities and goals to prevent burnout. As what’s important may shift over time related to work, home, community or society and the private realm of mind, body and spirit, continually audit how you are investing your time and focus your actions to what’s important.

7. Delegate or automate when you can. Consider resources like Fancy Hands, Fiverr, Guru, Help Tap, Moonlighting, Task Rabbit, Thumbtack, Upwork and 99Designs to enlist others’ help for getting things done; alternatively, If This Then That, Podbox, Zapier and social media managers like Buffer, Edgar, Falcon Social, Hootsuite, SocialOomph and Sprout Social help you “set it and forget it” so things happen without you having to invest your time to do it all.

8. Keep a list readily available of which tasks can be done in a 10- or 30-minute time slot so you are prepared to hit the ground running when those free moments magically appear.

9. End procrastination. Break projects into bite-sized actions so each step is less daunting. Ask for help or seek direction on anything that is ambiguous. If a task takes less than 5 minutes, just do it. Assign rewards for celebrating successful completion of tasks or ramifications for missed deadlines.

10. Utilize a timer. Get started on a “big, hairy, audacious” goal. Capitalize on how activity breeds activity. Attack challenging tasks for shorter times. Stay on task when working for a longer period of time. Energize greater results with shorter spans of effort.

11. Limit distractions. Turn off the pings and dings for notifications. Send your phone directly to voicemail as needed. Set a timer for how long you will use social media. Consider working remotely at times. Employ technology (like KeepMeOut, LeechBlock, Nanny, SelfContol and StayFocused) to block distracting websites temporarily.

12. Manage your tech instead of letting it manage you. Typical smartphone users check their phones 150 times a day, and it takes time to re-focus on the task at hand whenever distracted by our tech tools. Start with these tips to manage email and, then, make your mobile device a tool working for you rather than technology to chain or confine you.

13. Do not confuse immediate or urgent with important. What are the consequences of getting something done sooner versus later? When folks get you to stop working on what is important to achieving your goals in order to address their needs, they are managing your time; if you were unavailable, whether due to meetings or travel, an immediate issue would have to wait.

What tactics do you utilize for making every minute matter? Have you had success with any of those listed above or will you be implementing any of these strategies?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Utilize Failure to Get Better Results Next Time

Even the greatest of success stories have included failures throughout their journeys. Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling, Michael Jordan and Steve Jobs are examples featured in this infographic from Online MBA Today:

Failure Source:

As 90% of business startups fail, it is imperative to learn from our mistakes so we can pick ourselves back up and become successful. To learn more about these famous fails as well as how you can turn failure into success, please visit Here are a few key steps listed as important in turning failure into success:

1. Investigate what went wrong.

2. Learn from each failure experienced.

3. If you're accountable for the failure, accept responsibility and, then, move on rather than dwelling on it or beating yourself up.

What techniques do you utilize to turn your failures into successes? Which of those suggested by Online MBA Today will you implement for even greater results?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Is the Sum of Your Life's Parts Greater Than Each Alone?

As I was flipping through a catalog from Franklin Covey recently, I came across a quote that really reflects one of my productivity philosophies: "The sum is greater than the parts... When it comes to organizing your life, nothing happens in isolation. As you take an active role in planning your days, weeks and months, the choices you make influence each aspect of your life, multiplying and amplifying your results." It is only by proactively planning for each element of our lives that we are able to achieve our optimum overall outcome.

I love the quote of how TEAM stands for "Together, Everyone Achieves More", referring to the phenomenon how many different people working in harmony towards a shared goal will culminate in greater results than any individual working alone. Yet, that quote applies to much more than simply humans working together, including the power of work-life integration.

The are many elements encompassed in life: work, home, community and the private realm of mind, body and spirit. True harmony can come from integrating these various elements together. While the percentage of each day's 1,440 minutes fluctuates between elements as your priorities evolve, the return on investment of time in each element includes enhanced results for all the other elements in our lives. The benefits from one will boost the benefits experienced from others.

For example, by volunteering for a non-profit, we can learn skills that help in our businesses; likewise, managing our teams at work can help when leading our families at home.

According to, synergy is "the interaction of elements what, when combined, produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements", and this can benefit your productivity. Utilizing the synergy between elements of your life leads to better work - life integration and enables you to more thoroughly achieve your desired results.

How do you utilize work-life integration for greater productivity results? Are you regularly auditing your investment of time to ensure the way you're spending your time best reflects your priorities? Are there creative ways to achieve multiple goals with individual actions?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Don't Be Rude; Schedule Time For What Matters

One way to truly make every minute matter is to "schedule your priorities". At its truest essence, this means you identify the essential and eliminate the rest. However, there's much more to this than simply eliminating that which does not work towards achieving your desired results nor aligns with your priorities.

Here's the scenario: As our lives get busier or we find ourselves drowning amidst the information avalanche, folks are choosing to be rude, whether consciously or not. A friend, acquaintance or colleague sends you a text, messages you via social media, emails you or calls you with a particular question. She wants to see if you can join her for an event or he needs your help on something specific. Yet, you are overwhelmed by all that is going on in your life, and you either never respond or it takes you days to get back to that person, often making her wait to proceed, missing a deadline to get registered or having the event sellout before you get tickets.

Don't be rude... When you schedule your priorities, it means you make time for what matters. If you delay responding to requests for your time or simply disregard them completely, you are telling the other person that he or she does not really matter to you. Maybe that person is not one of your priorities, which is why you aren't able to find time in your schedule for getting together; eventually, he or she will gather your message about not being important to you, but do you really want the way in which you conveyed that message to reflect poorly on you?

Instead, be upfront about your time limitations and that you have to focus your limited time elsewhere. Maybe you have a short-term project that is really draining your resources, which is something you can share as a specific time drain; however, it could simply be that your interests have changed. Whatever your situation, don't avoid confrontation; be straightforward and professional as you explain that you cannot make time for getting together.

On the other hand, if you come away from experiences with any one person thinking "wow... I really enjoyed that time" or "that was so much fun", maybe you need to rethink how much of a priority that person is and find time in your schedule to invest in that relationship. Sometimes, keeping it low-key and casual makes finding time for a relationship much easier. If you don't have time for going out, could you have a cup of coffee or glass of wine at one of your homes? Could you combine a Zumba class or walk through the park with catching up? Maybe you'd like to video chat via FaceTime, Google+ Hangouts, ooVoo, Skype or Tango

Take action... Is there someone you need to reply to about not being about to get together? Is there a lingering request that needs your attention? Is there someone with whom you need to schedule time for catching up?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Leadership Lessons from Super Bowl 50 Champion, Peyton Manning

Photo Courtesy of NFL Instagram
Whether in his Leadercast conversation with Bill Rancic, his interactions with his teammates or how he handled media relations leading up to yesterday's Super Bowl 50, Peyton Manning offers a plethora of leadership lessons for professionals in many different industries. At 39 years old, Manning was the oldest quarterback to start in a super bowl and, therefore, the oldest to win one. After 18 years in the National Football League, Manning has a wealth of knowledge to share; as a huge football fan, I've followed Peyton Manning's career, and here are the top five leadership lessons he's shared that resonate well with me:

1. Learn to thrive on being uncomfortable. As Manning explains, "As much as a quarterback would love a perfect pocket every time, it's not real life." With that in mind, Manning practices "awkward throws", and his coaches push a blocking dummy into his feet to simulate a pass rush. For workplace leaders, the lesson is to escape your comfort zone so you can fuel groundbreaking ideas. You might be amazed by how trying something new or working amidst chaos will push better results.

2. Find a new way to do the old job. After 14 years with the same franchise, the Indianapolis Colts, Manning had to switch to the Denver Broncos at the start of the 2012 season. At the same time, after a year off necessitated by four neck surgeries, Manning had to adjust to a new physical state in some specific ways: he became skilled in throwing shorter routes, learning to get rid of the ball much more quickly. Although some may refer to him as a "game manager", his focus on studying the competition and his team's game plan have proven to be his greatest assets in achieving success at keeping his team in position to win amidst very different circumstances than he's faced ever before. As Manning explains, "I've looked for different ways to move the chains and put us in a position to win"; likewise, for workplace leaders, the world around us is constantly evolving so we must continually tweak our products, services, processes and tools.

3. Work hard. Manning has a legendary work ethic. It has been documented regularly that he would not have succeeded as he has without the hours and hours he has invested in practice, film study and throwing repetitions. He's often the first to arrive and last to leave the stadium, and his teammates point out his intense efforts regularly. For workplace leaders, it is important to be intentional about what we want to improve; then, proactively schedule actions to work towards getting better. Focus on a series of small action steps that you can realistically complete as you work diligently towards achieving your goal, taking baby steps every day.

4. Invest in a coach. When recovering from his neck surgeries, Manning relied on his former position coach at the University of Tennessee, David Cutcliffe, and, to this day, Manning likes working with him because, as Manning explains, "Cutcliffe does not hesitate to yell at me for my mistakes". Likewise, Manning continues to rely on his former head coach at the Indianapolis Colts, Tony Dungy; immediately following his win in Super Bowl 50, Manning quoted his most recent advice from Coach Dungy, and Manning has not wavered in repeating the same refrain. For workplace leaders, once you find someone whose authority you respect, encourage them to push you diligently to meet higher and broader demands of life with each step in your growth and development.

5. Understand how success stems from relationships. Many refer to the old saying of "it takes a village" as a cliche; however, to me, it is a fact of life, and I have found the same to be true for Manning. As he stated, "You can have the swagger of a winner, but never be convinced that your greatest accomplishments are made alone." Manning's greatest joys and successes have resulted from his working with and helping others. For workplace leaders, it is imperative to surround yourself with those who share your mission, vision, values and desire to achieve better. Together, everyone achieves more and can attain much better results.

Looking for more insights from Manning that can better your day-to-day results? Read Brian Dodd's "Live Notes from Leadercast - 56 Leadership Lessons and Quotes from Peyton Manning".

Have you found success using any of these tactics? Which can you implement now for even greater results?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Maintain What Systems You Create

As we start February, it is time to reflect on the progress made thus far this year. On this blog, we have covered so much ground throughout January. From habits that will aid being proactively productive to tools that one can implement for better or more efficient results, there are so many tiny tips to fuel your successes.

Yet, the 31 posts I've shared to jumpstart your new year are only the start. It is important to get organized and create systems; however, maintaining your organization is where productivity fuels true success. The challenge moving forward is to maintain what foundation has been developed.

Since none of us can envision all the hurdles we will face going into making changes, be reassured that backsliding is normal and to be expected. However, how we respond to those hurdles and any regression that occurs will determine our ultimate success.

Ask others for help to keep you on track. When you share your goals and what actions you are taking to achieve your desired results, you create a type of accountability that helps. Still, outwardly soliciting others' support is even more powerful.

Take charge of what resources are available to you. Sign up for free newsletters that will continually remind you of where you want to be headed. Join Facebook groups or Google+ circles that can provide ongoing support with changes you'd like to maintain.

Utilize reminders to stay the course. Set alarms on your mobile devices to trigger your new habits. Add sticky notes or labels around your workspace, home or vehicle as visual aides.

Be willing to continually review your progress. What works for someone else often won't work for you so you might need to tweak what habits, techniques and tools you've adopted to best meet your personality and specific needs. Plus, as the world around you evolves, your needs will change, and  you'll need to adapt suitably.

Take action to overcome common impediments to change, and you'll reap the benefits of success throughout the year. 

What have you implemented from my posts throughout January to jumpstart your new year? What is your game plan for maintaining that organization so your enhanced productivity can fuel your true and continued success?