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

Monday, February 27, 2017

Redefining Productivity for Greater Success - Clarity of Priorities Enables Knowing Which Goals to Tackle When

One of 6 tenants to productivity being "efficiently working at effectively achieving desired results" is how clarity of priorities enables knowing when to act upon which goals. Last month, I looked at what it means to "be productive" or "boost productivity"; today, I'll do the second of 6 deep dives into specifics for redefining productivity to achieve greater success, looking at the importance of aligning our actions with our priorities.

If you fill your life with the little things that don't really matter, you leave little to no time for more meaningful things... Start with what's most important! If you purposefully make room in each week or day to address actions fueling what really matters to you, there is still room in your life to fill in with some of those less meaningful actions, but you'll move more rapidly towards achieving the goals that matter most. Comparing the time limitations of each day with the space constraints of a jar, this video displays how making room in your schedule for those priority actions first leaves room for filling the less important activities around later, like starting by filling the jar with the rocks before adding the pebbles and sand around those rocks.

Focusing on your priorities is a powerful time management tactic to overcome the limitations in saying "I'll get to that someday." I have yet to find a calendar that includes "Someday". Every calendar has Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday but not "Someday". Since we are more likely to get something accomplished when it has a specific date and time assigned for its completion, especially amidst the clutter on today's calendars, it's unlikely something you're going to do "Someday" will ever get accomplished. Remember that every "what" assigned a "when" is more likely to get done, and determine what finds a home on your calendar each day, week, month and year.

Each day, we have only 1,440 minutes to accomplish all our goals for work, home, community and ourselves, including taking time to eat, sleep, bathe, exercise and spend time with those we love. With our resource of time being so limited, it's imperative to invest each minute wisely, but how can we know which goals are important enough priorities to earn an investment of our own time?

I have two tools I prefer using when evaluating my current priorities. First, since my brain is not a reliable retention tool, it's important to dump the information out of my head, but I like to do that data dump in the most organized manner possible. I create three columns on a sheet of paper: one for rocks, one for pebbles and one for sand; then, as I move to-do items from my brain to the paper, I sort by level of meaningfulness into those three columns. The most important tasks, those that fuel my most valuable results and move me to my priority goals, are listed in the "rocks" column. The time sucks that distract me from what I want to achieve or are more a priority of others get listed in the "sand" column while those actions falling more in the mid-level of meaningfulness go in the "pebbles" column.

Second, once everything needing my attention has been pulled out of my brain and written out so I can view it all at once, I'm able to better utilize the Eisenhower Matrix to evaluate my current priorities. Similar to training from Stephen Covey, the Eisenhower Decision Principle evaluates tasks using the criteria of important / unimportant along the left-hand side as well as the criteria of urgent / not urgent along the top; tasks are placed in according quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix for determining next steps. If something falls in the Important / Urgent box, it is to be done now. If something falls in the Important / Not Urgent box, it must be done but can be delayed to a later date. If something falls in the Not Important / Urgent box, I consider whether it can be delegated. If something falls in the Not Important / Not Urgent box, I consider whether it can be deleted.

When you are evaluating which actions on your running to-do list are priorities, consider a few enlightening questions... Does this task truly need to be completed? If not, can I delete it? If it must get done, does it need to be done by me? If not, to whom can I delegate it? I find this mental checklist very helpful in determining which tasks earn a portion of the very limited time on my calendar.

How do you determine which tasks are priorities? How do you use that prioritization to plan your next steps?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Redefining Productivity for Greater Success - Time is a Limited Resource and Needs to Be Invested Wisely

How do you invest time for best ROI?
One of 6 tenants to productivity being "efficiently working at effectively achieving desired results" is how time is a limited resource and needs to be invested wisely. Last month, I looked at what it really means to "be productive" or "boost productivity"; today, I'll do the first of 6 deep dives into specifics for redefining productivity to achieve greater success, looking at our limited resource of time.

Each day offers only 1,440 minutes while each week is made of no more than 168 hours. As any clock keeps tick, tick, ticking away, time stops for no one and nothing. We cannot create more time, and, once any amount of time has passed, it cannot be lived again.

Whether the resource being invested is money or time, there is always a measurable return. A financial advisor will talk with you about investing your money so that it can grow and make you more money. As a productivity consultant, I talk with you about investing your time to get a slightly different return on that investment; how you invest your limited resource of time will determine how well you achieve your goals, and the actions in which you invest your time reflect what are truly your priorities.

Next week, in the second installment of this blog series, I'll follow that train of thought further, looking at the importance of aligning our actions with our priorities; meanwhile, in considering wisely investing our limited resource of time, there is one mantra to keep in mind: Saying yes to doing something means saying no to anything else using that time. It's not possible to be in two places at the same time, and no moment can be lived twice.

One of the greatest compliments I have ever received was when a client told me, "I never realized how valuable 15 minutes could be until I started working with you." We can improve only what we measure, and we must know how we are investing our time in order to invest it better. Therefore, if you are struggling to grasp how much time different tasks take or how you are currently investing your time, take action... Set a timer to see how long common actions take you to complete. Further, keep a time journal for at least a week to track how you are spending all your time.

How keenly aware are you of the limitations on your time? What steps do you take to make sure that time is invested wisely?

Friday, February 10, 2017

7 Travel Hacks You Need to Know Before You Go

To give you a taste of what's to come in Emily Parks' series of travel tips that will count down to Memorial Day, we welcome Sarah Smith of to present today's post.

People like reading about travel tips simply because travel can be overwhelming and confusing. There are tips about booking cheap flights and getting the best hotel accommodations for a good rate. These are, of course some of the main concerns of travelers, but there are other things about which a person who travels a lot might be concerned. Packing and taking great photos are two of those.

Many people worry about what to bring and how to cram everything they need for a few days into small pieces of luggage. Did you know that rolling your clothes makes them easier to pack and leaves them less wrinkled? You will benefit from packing mostly dark-colored clothes since they don’t get dirty very easily. You can just hand wash them with soap and water in your hotel room and hang them at the clothesline if there’s no laundry service. This way, you can reuse the same shirt or pants several times during your trip.

You can bring shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste in sachets since you'll need only a little of each, but bring a lot of sunscreen, especially if you will be spending a lot of time under the sun.

If you are traveling with your loved ones or friends, it will also do you well to book tours. It will make going around islands or cities much easier since everything will be taken care for you. The itinerary will also be laid out, and you won’t even have to worry about meals and other incidentals.

This timely infographic details travel hacks and other tips that will serve you well during your next trip:

7 Travel Hacks You Need to Know Before You Go

Monday, February 6, 2017

Productivity Best Practices from Super Bowl LI

Bill Belichick, the coach of the New England Patriots, is often called a "legend" or the "greatest of all time", and his team's win in last night's Super Bowl LI reinforced those beliefs for many who had been thinking that way. At halftime, the National Football Conference champions (the Atlanta Falcons) led the American Football Conference champions (the New England Patriots) by a score of 21 to 3, and most folks were saying the game was over. No team had ever overcome that large of a deficit in the Super Bowl, especially when the lead stretched to 28 versus 3 in the 3rd quarter, but no one counted on the spectacular play of Patriots' supporting cast members, like running back James White, tight end Martellus Bennett, wide receiver Danny Amendola, defensive lineman Trey Flowers and wide receiver Julian Edelman. There are a couple important productivity lessons brought to light by this Patriots' win, and we can implement them to organize for success in our lives.

First, there's no I in TEAM, and, together, everyone achieves more. Although quarterback Tom Brady was awarded the Super Bowl MVP in 2015 and 2017, he acknowledged in both cases that he could never have achieved such a big, hairy, audacious goal without everyone on the team carrying their share of the workload. In 2015, he gave the truck he was awarded as MVP away to Patriots' cornerback Malcolm Butler; then, earlier today, Brady again acknowledged this win coming from a real team effort by saying "I think James White deserves it" in reference to the truck Brady was awarded as the 2017 Super Bowl MVP. Situational football plays a key role in such an epic comeback, and there are so many critical plays that contribute to a team performance of this magnitude: James White set a Super Bowl record with 20 points and 14 receptions; Trey Flowers sacked Falcons' quarterback Matt Ryan in a pivotal play late in the 4th quarter, which is one play Ryan truly wishes he could change; Julian Edelman might've saved the day with a miraculous, gravity-defying, history-making and absolutely incredible catch, which you should click here to watch now if you've yet to see it or follow a step-by-step breakdown of the play here. Aristotle said, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts", but it is through the culmination of all these players' contributions that the entire Patriots' team won.

Second, focused efforts without distraction over the duration of a project lead to effectively achieving desired results. When trailing by over 8 touchdowns, the Patriots could have easily given up, and most folks could have related to that feeling of being unable to overcome such a large deficit, particularly as such a Super Bowl comeback had never been done before. It's hard to believe you can accomplish something no one has done before, but the Patriots exhibited the mental toughness necessary when it might've been most difficult. One of the mantras for which Coach Belichick is most well known is "Do your job", and, for each member of the Patriots' team, doing his job consisted of diligently and attentively playing football, working beyond his limitations and showing mastery for all aspects of his game throughout the entire 60 minutes of four, 15-minute quarters as well as the first 4 minutes of overtime. No more and no less. Some have said the Falcons' defense appeared tired in the final quarter of the game while others have said the Patriots' offense finally figured out how to overcome what the Falcons' defense had been doing; regardless, the New England Patriots fulfilled Coach Belichick's expectation of doing all the little things it takes to win. Diligently paying attention to details led to the Patriots' success.

The men's basketball team for North Carolina State University was coached by Jim Valvano from 1980 to 1990, after which he famously battled metastatic adenocarcinoma, a type of bone cancer. One of Coach Valvano's most memorable motivational speeches was delivered February 21, 1993, during which Valvano stressed the importance of hope, love and persistence and included his famous quote of "Don't give up, don't ever give up." In last night's Super Bowl LI victory, the Patriots chose to never give up. Couple the Patriots' persistence with teamwork and each team member doing his job with great focus as well as attention to detail, and it's easy to see why the New England Patriots were rewarded with a remarkable Super Bowl victory.

What productivity practices make your organization most successful? Do you practice teamwork? Do you reinforce focusing on the details to do your job well? Do you have a culture of not quitting and not giving up?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 1st is Change Your Password Day

No matter how diligently you plan for your financial future, chances are pretty good that you put your future at risk every day. If you are like me, you have online accounts that run the gamut, including logins to download music, purchase clothing, pay bills, communicate on social media, share documents or information and much, much more. Back when the Heartbleed security bug exploded in early 2014, we all had to take stock of our online accounts to change passwords for all the infected sites, and I realized how long my list of accounts had gotten. Couple the vast number of accounts with password security ranging from horrible to somewhat mediocre, and our risk is very scary.

According to CNN, half American adults were hacked in 2013 alone, and evidence indicates that situation is not slacking off. Looking at the list of biggest data breaches in 2016, there are some big names that can invoke real fear for those of us dependent on the Internet. A plethora of databases (from the U.S. Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service to LinkedIn, Yahoo!, Weebly website design, Cisco and Wendy's) are all included. Yes, I did say Wendy's the restaurant chain, and there's no telling what 2017 has in store.

Back in 2012, Gizmodo declared February 1st to be "Change Your Password Day", which I think is a pretty good idea. Using a password manager can increase the security of your passwords by having them created via the technology itself rather than your brain and secures those passwords electronically; however, even if you choose an alternative method for keeping track of all your online accounts, it's probably been awhile since you've refreshed your passwords. Take action today and change your passwords!

How do you keep track of the logins and passwords for all your online accounts? Will you take time today to assign each online account a new, more secure password?