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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Make Summer More Productive

Summer officially kicks off today, and you might be feeling a little more sluggish, laid back or easy going than during other seasons. When someone mentions summer, many folks' minds drift to being on vacation, hanging out by the pool or lounging on the beach with toes in the sand. Alternatively, you might reflect immediately on the rising temperatures and how difficult it is to concentrate in the heat. Yet, there are steps we all can take to make summer more productive. Here are a few ways to boost productivity this summer:

1. Calendar the craziness. Line up calendars for the next three months along your wall so you can see everything coming up at a glance. These might be wall-hanging paper calendars or dry-erase calendars; the key is to have the next three months visible at once. Then, add vacations for you and your team members, holiday celebrations, impending deadlines and family commitments, including swim meets and camp registrations alike. Include all elements of your life (work, home, community and self), considering different colors for each of those buckets. When you know what is coming, you can more proactively invest your time in achieving all of your desired results for each area of life.

2. Establish your non-negotiables from the get-go. As summer schedules tend to become a little more erratic than normal, you and your team need to know which items have less flexibility than others. For me, I absolutely must maintain my weekly strategy session and daily wrap-up, but the good habits that keep each individual on track productively will vary from person to person. Do you expect your team members to have certain hours during which they always work in the office rather than operate remotely? Is there an expectation for how team members should request vacation time or notify the rest of the team about a hiccup related to impending deadlines, which can be especially vital with varying schedules for summer vacations? This would be a good time to communicate leadership's expectations to everyone. Be as clear, concise and transparent as you can.

3. Focus your efforts on tasks, not projects. It's not possible to check a project off your to-do list in one sitting. "Plan a party" is not a single action item; instead, there are many actions that make up that project. As you are mapping out the next three months, take time to break larger goals into smaller, bite-sized action items that can be completed as individual tasks. Start each task with a verb so as to fuel action, break each task down to as simple of a function as possible, estimate how long each action item will take to complete so you readily know those tasks taking 10 or 30 minutes, and and assign a deadline for each task's completion.

4. Invest some time to reflect inward. With erratic schedules during the summer, many companies have fewer meetings that would otherwise be held at normal intervals; this can be the ideal time to review and reset some of your organization's key elements. When was the last time your team updated its mission, vision, core values, annual goals, processes and workspace organization? If it has been awhile, block out time during the dog days of summer to look them over and adjust as needed. Maybe you'll want to freshen up your customers' experiences, update what messages you are conveying across all mediums and put yourself in the client's shoes. Further, this can be an ideal time for a personal audit, where you assess what you have learned and achieved thus far this year, what priorities need attention in the coming months and what "someday" actions need to be scheduled so they move from to-do to done. Do your goals for work, home, community or self need to be adjusted, and how can you realign your actions to focus on achieving each?

5. Make time for fun and frivolity. If you block out time to truly enjoy the season, you'll be less distracted by what you are missing when you are focusing intently on getting things done. The "Fun Summer Activities Checklist" from Real Simple and "31 Totally Free Things to Do This Summer" from PureWow are excellent places to brainstorm what cool things you can do to dive into summer enjoyment; then, once you've blocked off time for those activities, your mind will be less likely to drift from working towards wondering when you'll actually be able to celebrate summer fun. Plus, when you are taking time to enjoy all this season offers, you can truly take a break from everything else since you've planned for when those other goals will be addressed.

What steps do you take to make summer more productive? Will you be implementing or attempting any of these here?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Is It Time To Stop Saying I'm Sorry?

There has been a buzz growing about the negative impact of saying "I'm sorry". Folks contend that it holds back career success, prevents stronger relationships and makes the person saying it appear weaker. As opposed to saying "I apologize", the phrasing of "I'm sorry" suggests you are claiming first-hand that you are a sorry human-being. In researching this phenomenon, I read about a study published in Psychology Science that had men and women journal how often they committed an offense as well as whether or not they subsequently offered an apology, which reported women committing more offenses and offering more apologies than men.

As I studied this, I became acutely aware of each time I used the phrase of "I'm sorry". Whether it was bumping against someone walking through a doorway, because I'd missed the other person's call due to being in a meeting or when I'm running a few minutes late arriving somewhere, I felt a twinge of "I shouldn't have done that" with each iteration. "Oh, no... What will they think of me?!?"

Although I want to be considerate of others, remembering we are all humans who put our pants on one leg at a time and regularly make mistakes, I certainly don't want others to view me as a lesser person due simply to my word choice. Therefore, I've been practicing two new habits: First, I choose carefully when an apology is appropriate or if I should be responding in a different manner. Then, second, I make sure to word each apology as "I apologize" rather than letting "I'm sorry" simply roll off my tongue. There is a distinction between those statements, and I want to make sure I'm conveying the appropriate message.

As I have made these resolutions, I've realized that breaking a bad habit is very difficult. I backslide from time to time, but I'm trying to be kind and understanding with my own shortcomings. I know that changing my words isn't about mind over matter; instead, it means I have to be thinking about it regularly until that thought process is simply inherent to my thinking. That's no easy feat.

I will keep at it, I will get better daily, and I am confident my efforts will make me a better communicator. Meanwhile, I will eagerly await the day that the Google Chrome extension for Just Not Sorry will be expanded to include the Mac Mail application.

Are you aware of how often you say "I"m sorry"? If so, what are your thoughts about that? How does it strike you when you hear someone else use that phrase? Which phrases bother you more?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

5 Lessons for Business Leaders from World Champion Coach Steve Kerr of the NBA's Golden State Warriors

Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors for wrapping up this year's National Basketball Association world championship with last night's win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. I never hide how I'm a huge fan of the San Antonio Spurs, especially their brilliant Coach Gregg Popovich; however, it's not possible to accomplish all the great feats that the Warriors have over the past 3 years without powerful leadership: at least 67 victories each year and championship rings in 2 out of the last 3 years. I have seen that outstanding leadership in head coach Steve Kerr, and I believe the following 5 leadership lessons can benefit productivity for all time-crunched professionals.

1. Inspire others with your competitive drive and enthusiasm. Knowing exactly when to show the right emotions for the circumstances, Coach Kerr energizes his assistant coaches, players and support staff with his passion for continual improvement. He works continually to expertly reign in Draymond Green's emotional outbursts while encouraging his team to play with a drive for excellence. He even famously smashed a clipboard last year as the Warriors gave up a third quarter lead, explaining that he'd rather take his frustrations "out on the board rather than a player". There's a time for everything, and each leader must be aware of the impact one's actions have on one's team members.

2. See the potential in your team members and encourage it to grow. Each year, Coach Kerr has taken a growing core of star players, invested in bettering their excellence and plotted out how to best highlight each player's strengths in a way that has them working together like a well-oiled machine. He regularly exhibits his faith in his players' abilities and invests a great deal of effort in helping them become even better. This year, in addition to the strengths of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and crew, Coach Kerr sought to incorporate the advanced skills of Kevin Durant, resulting in a powerhouse team that far exceeds its competitors. Commitment to team members makes everyone better, especially the results for the team in its totality.

3. Acknowledge that success comes from your team members' performance. In both instances that the Warriors won championships, Coach Kerr hid amongst those on stage, almost refusing the microphone as he encouraged everyone who was on the court making the shots and defending the opponents to speak. He understood that his role is to encourage their star potential, but he can only draw up the plays while they are the ones actually dribbling the ball. Everyone within the Warriors organization echoes Coach Kerr's humility, humbleness and belief in teamwork, understanding that "Together, everyone achieves more" and putting the greater good ahead of any individual's success.

4. Empower a "next man up" mentality. Whether it was Draymond Green's absence in last year's NBA Finals due to too many technical fouls, players having to step away throughout the season due to injuries or Coach Kerr's own health concerns forcing him to step away temporarily, all members of the Warriors' organization are aware of the communicated expectation that they must step up to fill any void as it appears for the betterment of the team. Coach Kerr has shown the ultimate trust in his assistant coaches, players and support staff, which empowers them to better perform their necessary duties. When your team knows you trust them, they are empowered to step up and fuel desired results.

5. Constantly take the temperature of everything related to your team. Coach Kerr has developed personal connections with each of his assistant coaches, players and support staff members such that he knows exactly what's up with his organization, can proactively pre-empt hurdles and works strategically to realign issues before big problems arise. When you connect with your people, exhibiting empathy for team members' needs, they'll open up to you and better trust your subsequent decisions.

It is with these leadership lessons that Coach Kerr continues to achieve record-breaking successes, setting an example that inspires those around him to achieve greatness alongside him.

Which of these leadership lessons do you find most valuable? Are there other such leadership skills you've seen exhibited by Coach Steve Kerr?

Friday, June 9, 2017

What Business Etiquette Do You Utilize?

Business Etiquette Basics
The first full week in June is celebrated as National Business Etiquette Week, recognizing the need for proper business etiquette to compete in the growing global marketplace. According to Business Dictionary, business etiquette is "expected behaviors and expectations for individual actions within society, group or class; within a place of business, it involves treating coworkers and employer with respect and courtesy in a way that creates a pleasant work environment for everyone." Quite a few folks claim that business etiquette is a lost art; at times, I get a little lackadaisical about some of the best etiquette rules, which is why it's time to revisit these top tips for better business etiquette:

  • Exhibit courteousness. Avoid derogatory, rude or offensive language, particularly curse words. Stop interrupting others, even if you are afraid of forgetting the point you are wanting to make. Say "please" and "thank you". However, avoid overusing "thank you" in any single conversation; more than once or twice per conversation may dilute its impact.
  • Nail introductions. Say your full name when introducing yourself. Stand whenever someone else is introducing you. If you are unsure whether those around you know one another, be proactive in introducing them to each other.
  • Send thank you notes often. When interviewing for a job or new business opportunity, send separate thank you notes to each person interviewing you. Although email is acceptable, choose hand-written notes whenever possible.
  • Mind your manners over meals. Always break bread with your hands since using a knife is considered inappropriate; tear off one piece at a time. Let wait staff do their jobs; don't push an empty plate away when you're finished, and avoid stacking dishes as you finish with them. Further, balance your food with whatever others order. If your guest orders an appetizer or dessert, do the same; make sure everyone is equally comfortable. Finally, any meal's host should always pay. If you did the inviting, you are the host and responsible for the bill.
  • Master the skill of conversation. Come prepared with a few casual, non-business topics in mind, and, then, engage fully in the discussion. Never resort to pushing your business card on folks; instead, connect about what each of you needs and discuss how you can help one another. When at a networking event, have exit lines in mind so you can leave a conversation smoothly and politely, like "Nice to meet you", "Nice talking to you" or "See you at next week's meeting". Alternatively, when wrapping up a conversation, you can excuse yourself for a bathroom break, to get food or by explaining if you need to connect with someone else before leaving.
  • Be aware of expectations regarding technology. You should never use your phone during meetings unless expressly suggested for social media promotion. When in a meeting, don't take calls, text or check email; instead, focus on the meeting discussion or presentation. Likewise, make sure you double-check each email before hitting send, and don't copy a recipient that does not need to be receiving that information; people are already overwhelmed with the loads of emails received daily and don't want additional messages that are unnecessary. Most importantly, don't say anything in an email, text or instant message that you don't want broadcast to the masses.
  • Be respectful of colleagues and clients alike. Don't walk into someone's office unannounced or without asking that person's permission. Avoid gossiping, and don't eavesdrop on others' conversations. Then, when in the midst of your own conversation, be sure you are truly listening to what others are saying with an interest in understanding their viewpoints rather than being focused on how you will respond to what is being said. Further, realize that you don't ever know the full story because you aren't in someone else's hand so don't judge and don't make assumptions; ask questions and seek clarification.
With which of these business etiquette rules do you struggle the most? Which rules would you add to this list?

Monday, June 5, 2017

I Blogged Daily for a Month... Here's What Happened

Lessons from Regular Writing
Throughout the entire month of May, I wrote at least one post each of the 31 days. Celebrating 10 years of business for Organize for Success®, I posted a "top 10" list daily, intermingled with the last four posts in my "Countdown to Memorial Day" series of travel tips from frequent travelers. It was an eye-opening experience, and I'm writing today to share some of what I discovered doing this.

First, it was much more time-consuming than anticipated. Going into this project, I figured "It's only a list of 10 things per day; how much time could that possibly require?" It ended up being a heck of a lot more time than I ever imagined. It involved time brainstorming topics for all 31 "top 10" lists, outlining all the content I wanted to include in each post, typing it out as I wanted the content conveyed, editing what I'd typed, incorporating images as needed and adding links wherever possible.

Second, it really was fun. Part of the fun was culling together the best of the best from the many tips I've shared over the years. An additional part of the fun was taking a stroll down memory lane for some of the personal experiences I wanted to share with you. Yet another part of the fun was thinking through things I enjoy and what matters most to me. It was great to get your feedback as the blog readers about how my favorites resonated with you and what are your faves. It was such great dialogue both online and off.

Third, I'm proud of all the content I created. These 31 "top 10" lists covered a wide array of topics, ranging from ways to boost your productivity to insights about me and my business, and I like the way the information was conveyed. I got into a groove of writing the lists in a conversational tone, and I believe my content was easy to digest, including lots of useful recommendations.

If you missed any of those "top 10" lists, please click here, and leave a comment; I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Which list was your favorite and why? Were there any additional lists you would've included during the month?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Emily Parks' Travel Tips

After 8 full weeks of counting down to Memorial Day with interviews highlighting the preferences and best practices of several superstars who travel quite frequently (Laura Doerre, Geralin Thomas, Coach Dave Clawson, Olalah Njenga, Natalie Perkins, Coach Jay Vidovich, David Glenn and Ashley Christensen), giving you tidbits about what works for them as well as takeaways to try for your next trip, I have been asked to share my own answers to those same questions. Therefore, today, I bring you my travel hacks:

Q: Do you travel mainly for business, pleasure or both?

A: Usually, I travel for business; however, I make it a point to incorporate some fun along the way, whether it's a concert, sporting event, sightseeing, trying a highly recommended restaurant or catching up with friends in the area.

Q: Do you prefer traveling via plane, train, boat or automobile?

A: I've never really tried traveling by train or boat, and I'm not a fan of driving; hence, I'd have to say plane. It takes me out of the driver's seat and lets me use that time however I choose.

Q: What is your favorite destination and why?

A: These days, my favorite destination city is a three-way tie between Nashville, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and San Antonio, Texas. For more on what I like best about those destinations, check out my "Top Ten Favorite Cities" blog post.

Q: What is your preference for airlines?

A: I prefer to fly on Southwest Airlines. It matters to me that they don't nickel and dime you with added fees for anything and everything you could want. When I buy a ticket from Southwest Airlines, it includes 2 checked bags as well as a complimentary beverage and snack; plus, there is no charge to make changes to my reservation as long as I stay within the same level of ticket purchase, like Wanna Get Away or Business Select. Further, I really like how the employees of Southwest Airlines seem to enjoy their jobs more than what I've experienced with employees of other airlines. They make flying more enjoyable overall!

Q: What is your preference for hotels or accommodations?

A: Although I take advantage of my memberships in loyalty programs for Hilton, Kimpton, Marriott and Starwood Hotels whenever possible, for me, it's more important to make sure I'm staying at a hotel that is convenient to what I'll be doing when in that city. Further, I look for accommodations that are clean, safe and include complimentary WiFi as much as I can.

Q: Do you book your own travel or prefer a travel agency?

A: I usually book my own travel. Between Expedia, Google Trips, Hopper, Skiplagged and each airline's or hotel's own app, there are so many tools to make booking my own travel easier, particularly empowering me to get the best deal while allowing me to travel whenever it works best for my own schedule restrictions. I like to travel at random times, like nights, so I can utilize all my daylight hours to their fullest, and I can finagle travel around my unique preferences most easily on my own. Still, if I'm looking for some help, the Lola app is an on-demand, personal travel service to assist me in booking flights, travel or whatever I might need.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for making the most of loyalty programs or points?

A: Know what is included in your membership because you can't utilize benefits about which you are unaware. For example, with the Starwood Preferred Guest program, I get complimentary in-room Internet access when I book through their websites or mobile app as well as complimentary in-room bottled water. Marriott Rewards provides complimentary in-room Internet access when I book direct through any of their own channels. Best yet, Kimpton Karma Rewards provides free WiFi, a "raid the bar" or happy hour option, in-room spa credit, the ability to maintain a record of my custom stay preferences and a complimentary room stay during my birthday month no matter how many credits I've accumulated towards a free night stay. Keep your email address on record with your account up-to-date so you can be notified of changes to your benefits or birthday rewards when they roll around.

Q: When flying, what do you ensure is in your carry-on?

A: It's important to me that all my tech tools (MacBook Air, iPad and iPhone) as well as corresponding charging cords are safely with me in my carry-on throughout my travels. I have a Leather Charger Roll Up from Mark And Graham that includes my ESP initials which I use to keep organized an extra cord and plug for my smartphone and tablet, earbuds and cord for charging my iPad keyboard; additionally, I have Zippered Cable Tie Wraps from Neet Products that protect each of my cords while keeping them securely rolled up. Beyond that, I like to have a printed magazine to peruse during takeoff and landing, an empty S'well® bottle that I can fill up as needed along the way, IMAK Compression Pain Relief Mask and Eye Pillow, my Total Pillow microbead portable pillow, extra cardigan or sweater, meds, BandAids, toothbrush and toothpaste.

Q: Do you keep an extra bag of toiletries packed?

A: Absolutely! It makes it so much simpler to ensure I don't forget any of my necessities, particularly for my skincare routine.

Q: How do you organize your time while on-the-go?

A: I've learned to do as much prep-work as possible beforehand, meaning I'll investigate what I want to accomplish before leaving Raleigh (restaurants where I want to eat, attractions to visit, details to cover during scheduled meetings) and note as much as possible in an Evernote notebook dedicated to that trip. Then, I put as many details as I can into my electronic calendar for all my commitments, whether for conference sessions, hotel / restaurant reservations or events to which I've purchased tickets.

Q: What tools or tactics do you use to keep your accommodations organized while traveling?

A: There seems to be a trend amongst hotels, especially those that haven't been updated recently, to not have enough electrical outlets, particularly near the bed where you need to easily access phones and tablets; therefore, I make sure to take my Audiovox multi-plug surge protector. Further, I pack with all the details of what outfits I'll wear in mind so, upon arrival at the hotel, I try to unpack quickly, hanging up my apparel with all elements of each outfit grouped together on the hangers. That way, I can more easily get ready each morning, grabbing all I need at once.

Q: Do you use technology to help stay productive and organized? If so, what's your favorite program, app, website or tech tool for surviving the chaos of daily life? And what's your favorite for being your best while traveling?

A: Very much so! My favorites for maintaining my sanity while traveling are Evernote, Calendar, The Weather Channel, Dialpad, Reminders and Morning Kit. Before leaving, I like PackPoint for helping make sure I pack whatever I'll need, and, while traversing the country, I prefer using Lyft or Citymapper for on-demand transportation. Meanwhile, I depend on AroundMe, CurEatDetour, Field Trip, Find. Eat. Drink., Offline, Peek, RootsRated, Spot, The Scoop, Time Out, and Viator to find the hidden gems no matter what is my destination. Finally, if I need a place to work, I peruse the local options via Breather, LiquidSpace and WeWork.

Q: Across all your travels, which restaurants did you enjoy most and why were they your favorites?

A: In Nashville, my friend Beth and I enjoyed a delicious Sunday brunch at Adele's, which is housed in the old Universal Tire Center; with my background in the automotive industry, I was enthused by reusing this old service center for such a nice restaurant. Then, in Pittsburgh, I joined fellow members of the National Association of Professional Organizers Deb and Kathy for an amazing dinner that exceeded expectations at the highly-recommended Butcher and the Rye, following which we were rescued from a downpour of rain by the wonderful Coach Jay Vidovich, which certainly made for a memorable experience as Kathy watched the dramatic storm coming our way while we ate outside. Finally, in San Antonio, my friend Heather and I enjoyed a tasty Italian meal while overlooking the beautiful riverfront along the sidewalk of the riverwalk. Overall, I find it much easier to associate magical memories with dining experiences since they incorporate so many of our senses, especially pairing incredible food with wonderful dining companions. For more on which restaurants I've liked best, check out my "Top Ten Favorite Restaurants" blog post.

Q: If you could have one super power to make traveling (or life in general) a little better, what would it be?

A: As I've always envied Dorothy's ability to click her heels together and immediately return home in The Wizard of Oz, I would love the super power of teleportation. Eliminate wasted time!

Readers, do your preferences mirror mine? Do you use any of the tools or hacks that I've learned over my many travels? Which tip do you plan to implement in the future?