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



Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Visualize Your Ideal Life to Make It Happen

The fundamentals of productivity build upon one another... You clarify what matters most, utilize those priorities to create a game plan for proactively addressing the week, utilize a daily wrap-up to stay on track and, yet, sometimes, still miss out on attaining your loftiest of goals. The missing link might have more to do with visualization of your goals than the tactics you use to get through each day.

Have you ever heard the saying that "Seeing is believing"? As the Huffington Post explains, "Before we can believe in a goal, we first must have an idea of what it looks like... This is where visualization comes in, which is simply a technique for creating a mental image of a future event." It is through visualizing our experience of desired results that we can see, feel, smell, taste and hear all that success offers, fueling even greater emotional drive to meet goals.

One of the most successful methods is outcome visualization, where you create a detailed mental image of the desired outcome using all of your senses, putting yourself in the situation of achieving your goal to envision every little detail. This could be drawings, words, diagrams or a vision board, but the key is dig into the details as you create a visual representation of that outcome.

Another of the most successful methods is process visualization, where you envision each of the actions necessary to achieve the outcome you want, focusing on exactly how to complete each steps needed to achieve your goal rather than the end result.

At the end of this year, how will you have spent your days? What will be your gross revenue? How many of what types of clients will have hired you? What new things will you have tried or what helpful habits will you have developed? What did you stop doing?

Write out your answers; then, determine exactly what needs to occur to make your vision a reality. What resources do you need to procure? What partnerships do you need to initiate? What marketing efforts do you need to schedule? What sort of training do you need to acquire? With whom do you need to interact more?

Need help? Try Jack Canfield's step-by-step to get started.

What is your vision for your ideal life? What needs to occur to make that vision a reality? Share your experience with these visualization techniques and share your successes.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Delegate and Automate to Get More Done

Tasks are thrown at us each day via calls, emails, meeting conversations, texts and people stopping by our office. With our limited time, it often feels as if there are never enough minutes to get it all done; yet, our inability do it all on our own does not eliminate the never-ending to-do list. Until cloning becomes a realistic option or we can get our Inspector Gadget tools, we need alternative solutions.

When evaluating tasks requesting your attention, think this way:
  1. Does this task need to be completed at all? If not, can it be deleted, totally removing it from my to-do list?
  2. If the task must be done, does it need to be done immediately? If not, to when can it be deferred?
  3. Does this task require my unique skill set? If not, can someone else learn from doing it or does someone else have a skill set that will get it done better, more thoroughly or more quickly? To whom can it be delegated?
In any instance where a task can be completed by someone or something else, you open up time in your schedule to allocate towards getting something done that only you can accomplish.

Resources for delegation are not limited to existing member of your team, whether those at your company, members of your household or volunteers on a committee you chair. There are endless options for delegating the different types of tasks on your to-do list: Errand Girl, Fancy Hands, Fiverr, GigSalad, Guru, Metro's Other Woman, Moonlighting, Outsourcely, Red Butler, Sweeps, Task Rabbit, Thumbtack, Upwork, 99Designs. Likewise, consider delegating the task of grocery shopping to options such as Instacart, Shipt or Amazon Prime Now. Or think about how personal assistants can help, like Amazon Alexa, Cortana, EasilyDo, Google Home or Siri.

Automation is a form of delegation where you delegate to technology and can massively expand how much you get done concurrently. Set what rules apply to your needs in automation tools like IFTTT, Podbox, Zapier and social media managers like Buffer, Edgar, Falcon Social, Hootsuite, SocialOomph and Sprout Social. These "set it and forget it" solutions fulfill your desire to do two things at once while not hiring a human-being to help.

What are some tasks on your to-do list that could benefit from deleting, deferring or delegating? Which of the aforementioned tools might be a positive addition to your productivity toolbox?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Practice the Power of One

Although Three Dog Night might've wanted to convince folks that one is the loneliest number, I believe wholeheartedly that one is the most powerful number for productivity. There can be power in the masses, meaning a team collaborating in harmony makes greater progress than an individual; however, when it comes to certain organizing tools, it's more impactful to practice the power of one. When you have one place to look for information, one place to update content and one place from which data feeds, it is easier to quickly find what you need when you need it, keep content updated as it changes and verify information is processing correctly. Here are a few examples:

  • Address Book - For contacts' names, phone numbers, emails and snail mail addresses as well as any notes gathered via interactions with that person, keeping everything centralized within one system better enables it will stay up-to-date and be quickly accessible whenever or wherever needed, rather than having the business card left elsewhere or the phone number locked in another tool. It is best to have your solution sync across devices, meaning you don't have to manually enter details' changes on computers as well as mobile devices.
  • Calendar - Whether it's paper or electronic, a single place to track all time commitments (personal and professional) makes it less likely that appointments will be forgotten or you'll double-book yourself. If you choose an electronic option, you can still benefit from the power of one principle with various calendars for different elements of life, like one shared with your spouse, one shared with folks at work and one for volunteer commitments, as long as you have a viewing option to see everything at once, letting conflicts be visible easily.
  • Cloud-Based, Automated Back-up - Computers crash. Fires can destroy all your devices. Emergencies happen. It is with an automated, remote storage of all data from your hard drive that you can truly be prepared for anything. There is a difference between an online file repository and a cloud-based, automated back-up, which means both are necessary, and it's important to be strategic in managing electronic files. Unlike a hard-drive that you attach to your computer for backing up data, a cloud solution isn't at risk of natural disasters in your physical proximity, doesn't require you remembering to hook it up for activating the back-up and has multiple points at which your data storage is duplicated as well as protected.
  • "Data Dump" of Information - Human-beings are inundated daily with information, like meeting notes, ideas, reference articles, checklists, process steps, voice mails, blog posts, emails, texts and inspirations. Since our brains are meant for thinking, not remembering, it's important to document everything. Keeping it all in one place limits the places you must check when trying to find whatever's needed. 
  • File-Naming Structure - Whether paper files, electronic documents or saved emails, having each folder and individual file follow the same naming conventions will allow you to know what goes where and more easily retrieve each item later. If you have to ask "where should I file this?" when assigning a home to newly received or created content, how will you ever be able to find it later? Make sure you have enough folders for all the content to be retained while not having so many folders that any one item could go into more than one; then, keep your file-naming structure simply while avoiding "miscellaneous" so it's easy to replicate across the various retention platforms.
  • Password Manager - There's no doubt that our list of websites and software solutions requiring logins is continually growing, and we must protect ourselves with better password management. Listing all usernames and passwords in one place saves time as we're frantically trying to get logged in, and an electronic solution is more secure, allows easier access while on-the-go, creates more secure passwords, can alert you automatically when any site has been hacked and works cross-platform so you always have the right login information, no matter which device is being utilized to access your account.
  • Strategy for Attacking Priorities - Proactively create the direction in which you will proceed each week rather than living in reactionary mode by completing a weekly strategy session to develop a game plan for tasks, communications, time commitments and development opportunities in advance. Use your weekly strategy to ward off time stealers and others priorities since knowing where you're headed helps in getting there. Then, implement a daily wrap-up to stay on track throughout the week, avoiding deviations from curveballs that life will throw your way while addressing what matters most.
  • To-Do List - When jotting tasks down in different notebooks, on meeting agendas, using sticky notes atop your desk or on the napkin you grab in the drive-through line, it's more difficult to know what needs to be done when. Alternatively, keeping all the action items needing your attention in one place makes it more likely they'll get completed, aides in prioritizing and allows for divvying out must-do items across each day of the week. If you opt for an electronic task manager app, it adds reminders, easier carryover, recurrences and useful integrations.

Where do you see the power of one boosting your productivity currently? How can you streamline your toolbox to have one tool for each listed function? 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Learn How and When to Say No

In clarifying our priorities, it is paramount to acknowledge how limited our most valuable resource truly is. Each day offers only 1,440 minutes, and each of those minutes can be invested no more than once. If you spend time doing something, you can't get those minutes back for doing anything else; your return on time invested needs to fuel your passions or move you closer to attaining your loftiest goals.

Saying "yes" to doing one thing is inherently saying "no" to doing something else, which means the opposite is true, too... Saying "no" to activities that don't really excite us is imperative for making time to do what matters most. Yet, for the many of us who enthusiastically pursue many different passions, learning how and when to say no might be the most difficult lesson possible.

When figuring out how to make saying no work best for your specific needs in boosting productivity, keep the following in mind:
  • Think of all that's possible. Consider what you would do if you could rather than what you feel like you should do. As Americans, we tend to should all over ourselves, whether from peer pressure or from within, and, as adults, our shoulds can become barriers. It is our most basic need, craving, ideal, calling or passion that we must make time for doing, which is very different from caving into what we should do. Instead of saying "should", try "could" and, then, choose the possible path that reflects your own priorities and the fire within you.
  • Listen to your gut. Often, our bodies know what we really want to do. We might suppress the pull in that direction because it would involve challenges or conflict with others; yet, we're better off if we don't ignore the wisdom of our bodies. When we try to silence the messages from our guts, it can frequently lead to stress-induced health problems, like diminished immunities that make us more susceptible to viral infections. If you feel stress at the thought of saying yes, go with no; alternatively, if you are excited about both yes and no, go with the option that elicits stronger feelings of excitement.
  • Take what time you need to decide. If you don't feel passionately either way when immediately asked, take time to think. Maybe it's a few minutes; maybe it's a few days. Your needs will vary over time so sit with the available options to see what works best for you at that point in life. Reflect on your options, research the pros and cons of each, seek advice and let your gut marinate on how each option best resonates with you. When you are committing your time to doing something, you want to make sure you like the commitment and have the time available to do it as well as you'd like it done.
  • Saying no doesn't require being mean. As the majority of communication comes from non-verbals, try to pair declining an invitation with a smile or, at least, a warm, welcoming expression on your face. Then, choose your words wisely. Start with a positive statement, like "I would love to..."; include a transition word, like "but" or "however". If possible, end with a bit of rationale as to why not taking advantage of the opportunity being presented is actually better for you, your goals and your current bandwidth. If what you are declining is a request for help, substitute that with an explanation of how another alternative would be more helpful for that person or organization. For example, when relatives invite themselves to your home over the holidays, you can respond by saying, "It would be great to see you, but it is hard on my body to have guests stay over; plus, there is a nearby hotel with excellent service who can make your stay extra special. It will make having dinners together even more meaningful and enjoyable." Saying no with grace and authority is a win-win for everyone!
What is your criteria for saying no versus yes? What tactics have you found most helpful in telling someone no?

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Communicate to Collaborate for Greater Results

A quick Google search reveals that collaboration is defined as "the action of working with someone to produce or create something"; I contend collaboration is partnering with others to create something greater than can be produced alone. It is the very principle on which the team acronym of "Together, everyone achieves more" was created.

If we define team as "a number of persons associated in some joint action", we illuminate the importance of each team being results-oriented, focusing on achieving the desired outcome from that joint action and bringing complementary skills together in working towards a common vision. The trust, accountability and interdependence of a team depends heavily upon how well the individual members can communicate, meaning each must "impart or interchange knowledge, thoughts, feelings, opinions, information and ideas by speech, writing, gestures or signs" in order for all team members' differing contributions to combine for producing greater results related to achieving their unified mission.

Whether your team is everyone in the same department at work, a volunteer committee for a non-profit organization or the members of your family, there is always a need for optimal communication, and we must put effort into continually improving this skill.

Here are best practices for your team to improve communication:

  • Use the right tools at the right times. Research found that only 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through vocal intonation and 55% through non-verbal elements, such as facial expressions, gestures and posture. Therefore, carefully consider the pros and cons of each communication channel before choosing which is the best for sharing what message needs to be conveyed: text, chat, email, phone call, video conference or in-person meeting.
  • Speak in the language your audience will best hear. I don't mean choosing between English, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, Italian or Portuguese. Instead, I mean choosing words that appeal to the way your audience prefers to take in information, process it and make decisions based on acquired information. Some people prefer to take in information by using their five senses while others go beyond what is real or concrete and focus on meaning, associations and relationships to take in information that they trust. Some people seek to experience the world, not organize it, while others look at the world with an eye for what decisions need to be made, utilizing a planned approach to meet the deadlines set for decisions to be made in a scheduled way. Some people make decisions based on impersonal, objective logic while others use their personal values to understand the situation, focusing on relationships and harmony. Some people make decisions based off reasoning while others focus decision-making on emotions, responding to their gut more than their brains. When you customize your message for the person to whom you'll be saying it, you better ensure the message is received.
  • Avoid overload. The age of the Internet gives us instant access to knowledge and correspondence, making us constantly susceptible to an information avalanche. It's easy for any individual message to get lost amidst the clutter, no matter how important it is. Effective communication shares the right information with the right audience at the right time. Since less is more, keep your message simple, brief and to the point, sharing updates only when appropriate. 
  • Help everyone stay away from making assumptions. Whenever there is missing information or we haven't been updated on the status of something, as human-beings, we automatically fill in the blanks. Unfortunately, we often fill those blanks with inaccurate or incomplete information. Focus on eliminating blanks in what you communicate to others, filling them in with what you want others to put in those blanks instead of what they'd assume from their own perceptions.

Are there certain folks with whom you struggle to communicate well? Which tactics from this list could you incorporate in communications with those people for greater effectiveness and to better achieve your desired results?

Friday, January 26, 2018

Protect Yourself with Better Password Management

There's no way around our ever increasing need for more securely storing our online data. It seems that we hear about another data breach just about every day while our list of websites requiring logins continues to grow. Productivity requires more wary processes.

Here are four practical privacy practices to implement now:
  • Be password smart. Don't use the same password for everything. Create strong passwords, including uppercase and lowercase letters, spacing, punctuation and symbols whenever possible. Some sources encourage using a sentence as an effective password, but I still encourage incorporating those various elements of uppercase and lowercase letters along with symbols within whatever sentence you utilize. Then, change each password regularly, whether monthly or quarterly.
  • Be consistent in where you keep your passwords. You can handwrite them in a book, have them printed out from a spreadsheet, save them in your smartphone's notes or enter them in an online password management app; however, please do not rely on your memory nor leave them written on sticky notes attached to your computer screen. My clients have had great success using Dashlane, Roboform, SplashID, Sticky Password and 1Password, but utilize the option with which you feel most comfortable. If you take the route of using a password management application, feel free to use your email to pull any existing passwords associated with that email and, then, move at whatever pace you prefer uploading others.
  • Use two-factor authentication. Since many social media platforms and other tools link your accounts there to your email account, activate two-step verification within whichever email you utilize. When attempting to log into whatever account has two-step verification activated, you'll be texted a code that must be entered to proceed; this gives an extra layer of security to protect your account information and alerts you when someone else tries to login as you.
  • Protect your information. Don't over-share on social media, particularly when it comes to announcing when you are traveling, and limit what personal details are posted that can be tracked back to answers you'd give for security questions. Be careful with whom you share passwords, your social security number, your birthdate, credit card numbers and any identifying data. Never send anyone your social security number or credit card information via email.
Do you have preferred options for password management? What steps do you take to protect your privacy and security, particularly for online information? Are there any on this list that you will add to your privacy practices?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Make Meetings More Meaningful

When The Muse asked how much time we spend in meetings, the results were scary... "If you're a middle manager, it's likely about 35% of your time, and, if you're in upper management, it can be a whopping 50%." Considering most of us have no way to avoid meetings, it is important to make good use of all that time being invested in meeting with others. Here are steps we can take for a positive impact:

  • Have a clear purpose. If your meetings are focusing on simply updating attendees, they are not respecting everyone's limited resource of time. There are plenty of alternative means for conveying updates that are less intrusive to attendees, such as email or project management tools. Instead, meetings are most useful when focused on one of two purposes... either discussion or decision-making. If your meeting's purpose is not one of these, could the goal be achieved in a more efficient way by using another method or implementing new technology?
  • Schedule strategically. Be cognizant of vacation plans so meetings are not scheduled when many who need to attend will be gone. Likewise, avoid scheduling a meeting in the days leading up to a big deadline, especially if the meeting is unrelated to the project coming due, or during times when there will be too many distractions for attendees to be focused on achieving the desired results. Finally, as attendees can better plan the remainder of their day if each meeting includes an end time in addition to a start time, be sure to set and communicate a specific ending time for each meeting.
  • Invite only the right people. Include those whose contributions are necessary for fulfilling the meeting's purpose: those with the authority to make decisions, those with enough pull in the organization to advocate for what's decided, those with the expertise needed to make informed decisions and those necessary for successfully executing decisions made. Still, the Rule of 7 explains how "everyone in a meeting over 7 attendees reduces your ability to make decisions by 10%", hence why it's important to not include more than those whose contributions are necessary for accomplishing the meeting's goals as too many attendees lowers productivity.
  • Shorten how long you'll meet. Rarely do meetings require an entire hour, but we tend to schedule them for that length anyway. Try to end meetings at least 10 minutes before the next hour, like 12:50, 1:50, etc, or schedule your meetings in 15-minute increments, like meeting at noon to 12:45 or 12:15 to 12:45. Then, push yourself to accomplish everything on the agenda within that shorter duration by using a timer or having someone serve as timekeeper. Attendees will appreciate those spare moments before the next hour to return calls, run to the restroom, grab a snack or gather their thoughts.
  • Utilize an agenda. Make sure the agenda is realistic, listing what you actually believe can be accomplished within the scheduled time. Start with the most important items, and indicate how much time you intend to allocate for each item listed. Seek input from attendees to ensure everything needed is included while removing lower priorities or unrelated topics.
  • Prepare beforehand. Distribute supplemental items with enough time for attendees to review. If there is legwork that can be done in advance, completing it beforehand will help the meeting run more smoothly. As explained by Dana Manciagli in The Triad Business Journal, "proper planning prevents poor performance". Taking time to get your ducks in a row before empowers better discussion and / or decision-making.
  • Clearly communicate expectations. How does the meeting's leader want those attending to behave? Examples include coming prepared, contributing to discussions, giving feedback, sharing insights as applicable, making sure to ask questions and limiting technological distractions. Those expectations should be shared in writing prior to the meeting or verbally at the start. Additionally, attendees need to know guidelines for participating within the agenda, like when to ask questions, how to join in brainstorming and at what point it is appropriate to share feedback during any discussions. Meeting leadership should think proactively about what situations might arise related to each interaction and be specific with standards set.
  • Make notes. If you have the agenda beforehand, you can use that skeleton as a framework for filling in your notes from the meeting. Highlight what is important, whether via a different color of ink, a real highlighter or simply a block to separate the content that matters most from everything else. Designate each task that must be done as it arises in conversation; then, end your meeting notes with a recap of the highlights, action items and timing of next meeting. This reinforces your commitment to the topic, helps with paying attention throughout and enables more easily referring back to any items covered earlier.
  • Push discussion of issues arising throughout the agenda. Rather than deviating down a rabbit hole and stealing time from addressing all aspects of the meeting's designated purpose, denote on a separate list any issues not on the agenda as they arise; then, if there is extra time at the end, address each item. Alternatively, consider scheduling time on a later date for discussing or resolving those newly discovered topics.
  • Ensure accountability for what's decided. Each action item arising from the meeting's discussions and decisions will require a deadline for its completion, particularly as every what that has a when is more likely to get done. Ensuring each task gets completed is more likely when there is someone being held accountable for its completion and a way to track progress being made. Assign someone to the completion of each task resulting from the meeting and decide how you'll confirm follow-through by the person being held accountable.

With what aspects of meeting others do you struggle most? What issues have you faced in keeping your meetings on track? How do you ensure your meetings are productive? 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Limit Distractions

As you dive into your daily must-do list, do you frequently find your thoughts drifting? Do you get pulled in different directions all day, especially when time-crunched near deadline? Are there constantly different people, places and things needing your attention? If so, distractions might be depleting your efforts, and it's time to evaluate new solutions for limiting distractions' negative impact on your output.

A set of studies at the University of California found that workers are interrupted every 11 minutes at work. Research shows it can take 10 - 18 minutes to regain focus after a distraction, although some studies indicate it takes an average of 23 minutes for workers to return to a task after an interruption. I am not a mathematician, but my rough math tells me that doesn't leave much time for actually getting things done. Distractions rob us of productivity.

Here are strategies to limit the negative impact of distractions:

  • Turn off tech-related notifications. Every one of those pings and dings jerks your thought-process around like a ping-pong ball. Stop the pop-ups that are designed to tell you when you get a new comment on social media. Deactivate previews of newly received email messages. When you need to focus, set your smartphone to silent and remove the vibrate that goes with silent mode. Schedule time for handling calls, social media and emails when it works best for you, and, for folks that do require an immediate response (like key account clients or your direct supervisor), make them VIPs so you can utilize Do Not Disturb on iOS and Priority Mode on Android.
  • Wear noise-reducing headphones. Particularly when you need to focus on strategic thinking or creative production, it's imperative to block out all the excess noises around you. The tool of noise-reducing headphones can block out what's happening around you, even if you have no music playing and simply utilize the visual of you wearing headphones to discourage others from disturbing or interrupting you.
  • Delete the clutter. Excess in your workspace, too many emails coming into your inbox, stacks of paper and the loads of documents saved on your computer's hard drive can all act as distractions, pulling you away from what matters most. Having less means fewer things to detract from your desired results.
  • Schedule tasks that fulfill your goals. Burnout comes from actions being out of alignment with priorities, and being distracted can be a symptom of burnout. Regularly perform a time audit for optimum output, making certain your actions properly align with what matters most to your specific priorities.
  • Focus on working intently for shorter durations. When you break projects into smaller, bite-sized actions, you can work to complete each of those individual tasks step-by-step. You'll feel empowered to achieve each task's goal in a single work session, thereby having more rewards for staying on track to succeed with wins for finishing each of these mini-milestones. 
  • Utilize a timer. Some individuals or teams use a timer to simply get started, setting it for 15 minutes or so and capitalizing on the momentum created by that rush to keep pushing toward completion of the task at hand. Others like using a timer to stay on track, setting it for different intervals throughout the time required for a task's completion and making certain to still be working on the task at hand when the timer goes off at the end of each interval.
  • Jot down unrelated thoughts as they pop up. Our brains are meant for thinking, not remembering; therefore, each time we attempt to use brain cells for remembering, it steals our ability to think better. Document those ideas, to-do items or brilliant thoughts so you don't lose them and they don't detract from your efforts to keep getting work done.
  • Limit the impact of folks who drop by. If you have an extra chair in your office, make sure it has something resting in it to keep others from sitting down to chat or position it somewhere more difficult to access so it's less inviting for visitors to setting in and stay awhile. When someone comes into your office without an appointment, stand up and move towards your door, conveying to the visitor that it is not a convenient time. Keep an outbox near your office door so you can take those items down the hall as someone is coming to your office, always encouraging those that make unplanned visits to schedule an appointment for later. You want to help them, but it has to fit into your schedule for you to give that individual your undivided attention without negatively impacting efforts to do your work.
  • Work remotely when needed. While a library might help, research suggests the sounds of a coffee shop act as "white noise", helping you block out everything around for the greatest uninhibited productivity. New surroundings can boost concentration. For an added increase in your productivity, leave your laptop's charging cord at work or home, and work more efficiently so you can accomplish everything requiring your computer before its battery loses all of its juice.
  • Implement delegation and automation. If someone else can complete a task more efficiently or as effectively as you, cut back on the distractions from trying to do it all on your own by delegating those tasks. Likewise, stop worrying about getting done what you can program technology to do automatically, removing the distractions of trying to remember all those additional tasks by automating what you can.
  • Resolve what's weighing on your mind. Problems, conflicts, issues and decisions to be made all take up space in our minds, adding a psychological burden and popping back up in our thoughts at the most inopportune moments. Once those are resolved, they stop coming back into our thought-processes, allowing us to better focus on what needs our attention more.

What distracts you most often? What tactics have you found most successful for keeping yourself organized, focused and productive amidst all of your distractions?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Stop Procrastinating

Procrastination is often due to being overwhelmed by all that needs to be done. Sometimes, it stems from being unclear as to what is expected for completing a requested task or simply not knowing how to start the task at hand; other times, it is because we are unable to decide which to-do is the highest priority and, therefore, don't attempt any of the tasks needing our attention. Whether productivity is being held up by a lack of knowledge, clarity, skills or something else, ultimately, action is necessary to continue desired progress.

At times, procrastination helps us gain clarity by providing time for ruminating or marinating our options; yet, if procrastination continues for too long, it prevents getting things done, achieving desired results and attaining set goals, none of which are good.

Stop procrastinating! Use these options to get the ball rolling:
  • Break projects into smaller, bite-sized actions. No entire project can be completed at one time; instead, when them down into tasks that can be completed step-by-step, checking each item off, one by one, from a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual to-do list. When creating this list, start each item with a verb, and make sure it is broken down into the smallest increment of what is to be done so it's more feasible.
  • Gain clarity on anything that is confusing or unclear. Vague priorities, unclear directions, lack of knowing how to do something and being unfamiliar with the order in which to move through the steps necessary for getting tasks done are all problematic. Ask questions to better understand the objective, your team's priorities and how to accomplish each step necessary; if you don't know how to do something, ask someone who does know it for assistance. Never be afraid to ask those questions, realizing that the result to not asking is far worse than any answer you could receive.
  • Set deadlines for each specific task. I have yet to find a calendar that includes "someday"; therefore, when we say "I'll get to that someday" or "I'll work on that when I get some free time", we are usually setting ourselves up for failure. Instead, assign deadlines for each of the smaller, bite-sized actions within the projects to be completed, making it possible to block off time on your calendar for when each task will be completed. Every "what" assigned a "when" is more likely to get accomplished, leading to more wins.
  • Maintain accountability for designated deadlines. Some people respond better to a reward being held in front of them for completing a necessary task; other folks respond better to avoiding punishment or embarrassment from not completing assigned tasks. Once you know what motivates you, use that self-awareness to drive your desired behavior and encourage your greater focus on achieving desired results. Make it fun, utilizing gamification when possible, and make what best motivates you a tool for accomplishing what must be done.
  • Quiet any perfectionist tendencies. One of my favorite mantras reminds me that, "Done can be better than perfect so focus on good enough." Perfectionism is frequently the cause of procrastination; subsequently, focusing on the desired results can empower us to get past waiting for "the right time"and get us to stop continuing our work on projects for perpetuity in the effort of achieving perfection. Stop comparing yourself with others; achieving your desired results usually has little to do with how the finished product compares with what others do or have done. Instead, focus on getting things done to the best of your ability, not necessarily in a perfect way.
  • Utilize a timer. Working in a focused manner for a short stretch can boost both efficiency and total output... Anyone can do an undesirable action for a short spurt, and it's amazing how much more can get done in that shorter amount of time than if you think you have longer to finish. If you think you have all afternoon to do something, it will likely take that full amount of time; however, if you set a timer for a shorter timeframe, you'd be amazed how much you can get done in that block of time. Likewise, if you are a competitive person, try getting more done within a set amount of time than you expect you can or have done in previous instances. Most importantly, when the timer goes off, you may find that you are engrossed in the task and will keep at it, getting even more accomplished.
  • Minimize interruptions. It can take 23 minutes to recover from a distraction, which means productivity suffers each time we get distracted. Deactivate social media notifications, and schedule specific times to check those sites for what's happening. Send phone calls to voice mail while working diligently on a task that's coming due, catching up on calls at set times during your day. Turn off previews of new emails, scheduling when you will look at your inbox instead of letting your inbox bleed into all that you're doing. Remove visual clutter from your workspace, wear headphones to signal when you are not to be disturbed, and fill the chairs in your office to prevent those stopping by from making themselves at home.
  • Implement music's motivating abilities. Some people are energized by fast-paced music while others get more focused through smoother tunes, both leading to greater productivity. Pick enough tunes in the tone you prefer to fill a set block of time, group them together as your productivity playlist and, then, use that playlist to motivate desired output.
  • Put color to work within your space. A study published by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that red increases attentiveness; a separate study by the University of British Columbia shares how blue boosts creativity. Whether via color in your desk accessories, on your walls, in what you wear or through what you eat, bring into your workspace what color fuels the actions you hope to be taking.
  • Spend more time with folks who get things done. For years, I've heard that you become like the people with whom you spend time. If you prioritize spending time with people in your life who are considered hard workers or go-getters, their energy will rub off on you and motivate similar productivity in yourself. As activity breeds activity, time with productive peers can insight greater productivity within ourselves when we spend time with those getting more accomplished.
There are many times during which we need to follow Nike's advice and just do it, especially if the task takes less time to complete than how long it would require to re-focus and re-start the related thought process when we return to it later. These tactics can help.

Which tactics do you prefer for limiting procrastination? Are there any on this list you'll try when stuck next?

Monday, January 22, 2018

Capitalize on Your Energy for Enhanced Productivity

When thinking about a normal day at work, are there times you feel more "in the zone", the output seems to flow more easily, you're in a groove and you're energized? Can you envision what those instances have in common? For many, the theme that runs consistently amongst instances when working tends to work better happens to be our personal energy level.

As I've learned by using the Time and Space Style Inventory assessment with my clients, each of us is invigorated by different things in different ways, and our energy level has a dramatic impact on our ability to be productive from moment to moment.

It is important to attack challenging work when your energy is at its peak. This becomes more complicated as the timing of one's peak energy level varies from person to person; therefore, the first step in pairing the work that is most demanding of your abilities with the timing during which your abilities flow most freely happens to be self-assessment.

Know when your energy is most likely to peak so you can schedule uninterrupted time then for addressing your hardest work.

If your energy peaks first-thing in the morning, you may choose to enlist your energy level as a productivity tool by "swallowing the frog", tackling your most difficult tasks first. This approach is why folks talk about wanting to "hit the ground running" each day.

If your energy peaks later in the workday, you may choose to enlist your energy level as a productivity tool by adopting the mantra of "activity breeds activity", starting with easier tasks and building momentum to do more difficult work later in the workday.

Unfortunately, it's not always feasible to pair those more challenging tasks with times when your energy peaks. Since meetings are designed for discussions and shared decision-making, they can be a drain on energy and force you to be filled with energy during times that are not your normal peak energy time. If you find your energy waning right before an important meeting, invest in actions to fuel your energy reserves and replenish your energy on demand. It might not be quite as effective as your natural time for peak energy, but there are always options to quickly boost energy as needed. Use whichever works best for you.

Does your energy peak in the morning, afternoon or when the sun goes down? How do you adjust when you attack certain work functionality to best use your energy peaks?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Invest in Self Care to Fuel Your Energy Reserves

In a society that is constantly focused on doing more, it is increasingly easy for our energy to become depleted and we get burnt out. It is imperative to act deliberately to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health via self-care practices which replenish our energy reserves. Only when we build up what we have within can we fuel our desired results.

As part of the Simple Change team, I am well aware of how diminishing or replenished energy impacts my productivity; however, like you, I often feel the pain of how challenging it can be to improve my energy level. There's a big difference between knowing you need to take care of yourself to have the energy needed for getting things done versus taking action to boost those energy reserves, right? Although each of us has unique requirements for ways to best boost energy, here are some ideas you can easily implement immediately for better boosting productivity through greater energy reserves:
  • Listen to music. Maybe you prefer something upbeat. Maybe you prefer something calming. Maybe it's more about the beat of the bass. Get singing or humming or dancing to it.
  • Create a vision board. Add something with vivid color or energetic imagery, conveying excitement and movement.
  • Connect with those who matter to you. Sometimes, it can be in person, but, if not, consider a video chat, phone call, text message or sharing something on social media.
  • Get moving. Take a brisk walk, especially if you can get out in nature. Physical activity oxygenates blood cells while breathing outdoor air while absorbing vitamin D is invigorating.
  • Count your blessings. Gratitude is so powerful; taking time to document appreciation for what we have, who we are with and what lessons we've learned along the way fuels desire for more while energizing our belief that we can get things done.
  • Laugh out loud. Find something you've done recently that was funny or watch online videos that you find humorous. Choose something that gets you giggling from down in your gut.
  • Eat well. Healthy foods fuel our energy, especially with increased amounts of magnesium and antioxidants. 
  • Stay hydrated. Keep a reusable water bottle with you at all times and drink from it frequently, especially when you start to feel your mind drifting or need to re-energize.
  • Focus on something you have to look forward to in the near future. Whether you are planning for an upcoming vacation or bought tickets to a special event, that feeling of anticipation and excitement will be a great energy boost.
What kinds of things have you found help energize you? Are you feeling a little low on your energy reserves? If so, which of these can you give a try right now?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Be Strategic in Managing Electronic Files

As it's easier to find what's need more quickly in electronic form, many paper files get scanned into laptops, desktops and mobile devices; yet, simply converting to electronic doesn't ensure the content is safe, secure and easily accessible whenever needed. That's where the cloud comes into play, and it's important to utilize cloud solutions how they'll best support your productivity.

So many of us talk about "the cloud", but how many really know what it entails? In October of 2017, CBS Sunday Morning gave an excellent overview of "the cloud", explaining how files are stored in huge, centralized buildings (known as data centers) from which computers and phones fetch what's needed from wherever at whatever time desired. Further, as David Pogue of Yahoo Finance reports, the cloud helps synchronize content between devices so all changes made on one are seen across anything connected almost immediately. As evidenced by the concrete barriers, armed guards, retina scanner, mantrap, nine password doors, storage redundancy across geographic locations and emphasized anonymity in CBS Sunday Morning's clip, businesses along with individuals rely on these data centers to safely maintain data security.

Offering speed, security, flexibility and savings, "the cloud" is here to stay so utilize it in whichever ways will help you the most. One way you probably capitalize on "the cloud" is manually choosing which files to upload for storage and sharing in an online file repository, like Amazon S3Box, DEVONthink, Dropbox, eFileCabinet, Egnyte, Google Drive, iCloud DriveSpiderOak or SugarSync. Another way to capitalize on "the cloud" is through an automated back-up of everything on your computer, including documents, program files as well as hard drive settings, and options for this functionality include Amazon Glacier, Backblaze, Carbonite, CrashPlan, IDrive along with Mozy.

Your online file repository is not the same as a cloud-based back-up solution. Yes, both of these protect you from the ill effects of hardware failure, natural disasters, ransomware and theft, but they do so for different types of content and offering varying levels of ease for accessing that content when needed. Whether you utilize Amazon S3, Box, DEVONthink, Dropbox, eFileCabinet, Egnyte, Google Drive, iCloud, SpiderOak or SugarSync as your online file repository, it does not alleviate your need to implement an automated, cloud back-up via Amazon Glacier, Backblaze, Carbonite, CrashPlan, IDrive or Mozy, too. While your choice for online file repository will focus on saving your documents to the cloud, syncing them across your device, enabling sharing for greater collaboration and making it easy to quickly access those uploaded contents, that's not enough; your choice for cloud back-up provides automatic, continuous and secure saving of everything on the hard drive of your laptop or desktop computer, which is worth it's weight in gold when your hard drive dies, is corrupted or gets damaged beyond repair. Create your account on the website of your chosen back-up solution, download the software to your computer, tell it what to back-up and, then, make sure your computer is connected to the Internet at least once each 24-hour window of time; all your data will be downloaded to the data centers and secured for restoration when it's needed.

How do you utilize "the cloud" to manage your electronic files? What is your preferred online file repository? How about your solution for automatic, cloud-based back-up? 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Organize Your Files to Quickly Find What's Needed

Each day, we are faced with an onslaught of information. Much of that information avalanche comes from email, and there are solutions specific to controlling your email instead of letting email control you. Yet, there is an equally pressing need to address the overwhelm from paper and electronic documents. Follow these steps for relief in accessing knowledge via paper and electronic sources.

- Limit what you retain. Whenever you have to dig through more files to find whats needed, it takes longer. Make friends with delete and discard, keeping only what is accurate, applicable, useful, bringing you joy as well as difficult to replicate or find online. Then, schedule time to maintain this system, continually evaluating what comes into your space while addressing your retention cycle so things are not kept longer than needed.

- Convert what paper you can to an electronic format. It is easier to find content needed in electronic form. Further, filling electronic storage space creates fewer pains and often takes longer to reach existing limits. To reach this goal, choose from physical scanners, like Doxie or Fujitsu, install the Scannable app on your iPhone or CamScanner app on your Android device and partner with scanning companies to help catchup on your backlog, like The File Depot or Shoeboxed, culling together in your preferred option.

- Control the funnel into your space. When left up to the person delivering paper to your office, each will be piled atop the last on your desk or bureau; however, once something gets stacked on top of something else, you no longer know what is below. Counter that situation by hanging an inbox (and, ideally, an outbox) near the door to your workspace, whether a Three by Three Wall Pocket, reisenthel Clear Wall Pockets, a Rustic Marche Wall Pocket, a Yamazaki Nest 2-Pocket Wall Organizer or something similar. Tools like an inbox and outbox empower you to address what's most important when it's convenient for you and separate those items from what is currently being handled atop your desk.

- Implement naming conventions. If you can mirror names between email mailboxes, paper files and electronic document folders, it will be easier to know what you have, put things where they belong and, then, recover what's needed quickly. There is no "right" or "wrong" verbiage for labeling, although I discourage using "miscellaneous" since that is non-descriptive; however, there is an art to creating a filing system... You want enough folders so everything has a home but not so many options that any one item could realistically be filed in more than one place. Balance carefully between generic and specific so each email, paper or electronic file has a clear destination that is easy to maintain. The worst scenario is to struggle in determining where something should be kept as it means you'll struggle even more when looking to retrieve it later.

How do you choose what papers and electronic files to keep? What system do you use for successfully retaining them? Or how do you struggle with your documents?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Is Your Workspace a Tool in Your Productivity Toolbox?

Although many focus on personnel, processes, priorities and technology as the best tools for fueling desired results, the space in which you work can be another tool in your productivity toolbox. Just as important as what you keep can be where you keep it all, and there are key concepts to consider as you organize your office to support your greatest success.

Consider your current situation. When you look around your workspace, whether a cubicle, vehicle, co-working space, corner office or table in a coffeeshop, what do you see? Are you able to quickly find what you need? Or does the clutter overwhelm you? Is there an established process for how your work flows in and out? If it is not helping achieve your goals, take time now to organize your workspace to reinforce your efforts at attaining each goal.

- Edit the contents of your workspace. The more stuff in your space then the more you must dig through to find what is needed; therefore, utilize delete and discard to boost productivity. Keep only what is accurate, applicable, useful, bringing you joy and difficult to replicate or find later online, always taking into account any legal ramifications. As you purge accumulated excess, think about what can be recycled, shredded, donated, moved elsewhere or consolidated into fewer devices. Particularly for technology, what can be sold via Gazelle, letgoNextWorth, OfferUp or Swappa?

- Assign homes to what will be kept. As the quote "a place for everything and everything it its place" implies, when you know where something goes, it is easier to find what you need when you need it and put it away after you've used it. Store similar items together, following the mantra of "like with like", and choose zones closest to where items will be used. 

- Separate "active" items from those considered "archive". Similar to the real estate refrain of "location, location, location" for buying spaces, the location of items in your workspace matters for ensuring the most productive organizational structure. Prioritize the space within arm's reach from where you spend most of your working hours, assigning homes to what's in your office based on how frequently you use each of them. The prime real estate should be dedicated to active files that you are using most often while archive files can be stored further away. Move shared tools to common spaces for all team members to access easily.

- Choose solutions for containing what you retain based off your personality and workflow style. Whether files, bins, baskets, drawers, shelves, boxes or cabinets, keep in mind whether you lean towards "out of sight is out of mind" or "visual clutter paralyzes". Utilize the walls and backs of doors in your workspace. Then, train yourself to purge or divide contents once any storage solution gets full, particularly utilizing the organizational concept that it's easier to dig through less stuff to find what's needed.

- Use labels and color to enhance effectiveness. Labels allow you to quickly determine what is housed where in your space while different colors can visually group together similar items as well as drive desired behaviors. There is no "right" or "wrong" verbiage to use when labeling, although "miscellaneous" tends to create a black hole to contain just about anything, but balance carefully between generic and specific labels so you have enough folders for everything while not having so many that you potentially create duplicates or struggle to file anything away. If you struggle to determine where something should be kept, how will you ever be able to find it when you need to retrieve it later?

- Implement systems reflecting how "horizontal is hidden and vertical is visible". Use vertical file holders that will not bury one folder under another, hang an inbox as well as an outbox by your door to get those items off your desktop and avoid piles on any flat surface so contents does get lost under something added later. Whether you are receiving work, completing work and retaining finished work for later reference, it's imperative to have solutions that make it easy to quickly access what's needed as well as return everything when transitioning between functions so work moves along more efficiently and effectively.

With what do you struggle in organizing your workspace? Which of these steps can you use to ensure your workspace supports attaining your greatest successes?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Control Your Email Instead of Letting Email Control You

The average professional receives over 175 email messages each day, and many of my clients receive over 400 new emails daily, causing them to view handling email as a very time-consuming aspect of the workday. This is truly an overwhelming amount of communications. It can make you wonder how any real work gets done beyond simply reading each day's new email messages.

If someone were to peer over your shoulder right now to look at your email inbox, what would that person find? Do you keep just about everything received in your inbox, making it such that you have several hundred or thousands of emails in there right now? Do you keep action items alongside retention items in your inbox, making it harder to know what's been handled or what needs to be done? One little tidbit with an immense impact on productivity is the realization that your email inbox is definitely not your to-do list. I recommend using your email inbox as exactly that... an "in box". New items funnel through as needed.

To make this possible, shift your mentality from "checking" to "processing" new messages. According to stats from email marketing company BlueHornet, folks look at their phones more than 150 times a day on average, many of which are to glance at their email inboxes. Each time you read a new email and, then, plan to come back to deal with it later, that initial reading becomes a distraction because you have to re-read the message and re-start your thought-process on how to respond. Beyond the repetition involved with new messages, stop letting emails rob you of time by retaining fewer and moving them from your inbox.

Instead of wasting time by reading and re-reading your emails throughout each day, develop a habit of OHIO and "only handle it once", meaning you read new messages only when you are ready to deal with them and you use your inbox as a funnel instead of a holding zone. Here are tips to make such emailing easier:

  • If the email is asking you to complete a task that takes less than 5 minutes to complete, follow Nike's advice and "Just do it" immediately upon reading it.
  • If the email is asking you to complete a task that takes longer to complete, move it to your running data dump of to-do items needing your attention, and make time for completion.
  • Move appointment requests to your calendar.
  • File reference emails in your personal folders, making sure you have enough folders that everything has a home and no more than necessary so you never have to wonder in which folder you should file a new message.
  • Implement delete as a tool so you have fewer retained emails to search through when looking for a specific one.
  • Replace multiple, back-and-forth email messages with a quick phone call, even if you have to follow that call with a summary email for documentation purposes.
  • Unsubscribe from emails you no longer read rather than investing more time in repeatedly deleting the unread ones.
Do you find email overwhelming? How do you address email overload now? Which of these tactics will you employ in turning the email you receive into a productivity tool?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Delete and Discard Can Help Boost Productivity

Whether email, paper, electronic documents, physical items or calendar commitments, the more we have, then the more we must sift through to find what we need when we need it; those wasted moments can be better invested with other activities. Clutter, piles and excess can be debilitating, preventing desired results. Be selective.

The Justin Case book series is a great example of how keeping things "just in case" they're needed leads to terrible results. Justin worries about everything and carries his concerns to wild extremes, similar to those worried about not having something will keep everything and those with fear of missing out will commit to doing more than feasible. Failing to remove anything might be worse than editing out everything, although neither is an ideal scenario.

Realize that delete and discard can help boost productivity when utilized appropriately. Keep only what is accurate, applicable, useful, bringing you joy as well as difficult to replicate or find online. You'll better utilize your available tools to boost productivity and have less excess to drag down progress.

When struggling with whether to keep something, consider what would be the worst-case results if you discard it and, then, need it later. Are there legal ramifications? Can the content be easily recreated? It is important and necessary to keep certain things, but I encourage you to be more strategic as you select what is allowed to fill your workspace, your schedule and your hard drive.

How do you currently decide what to discard? Once you've made a decision about what to keep, how will you maintain what's established? What are your retention schedules?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Jump-Start Each Day with a Powerful Morning Routine

How you start each day dictates how you'll live it. If you begin with a sluggish approach, it's likely you'll never be able to accomplish all you'd like; on the other hand, starting strategically lays the foundation for greater productivity and enhanced success. Set a morning routine that builds up your energy, keeps you happy and smooths your way out the door with time to spare, assembling enough positive vibes to fuel the results you desire all throughout the day.

Incorporate these steps within your morning routine so you can jump-start each day for the best possible output:

  • Remove unnecessary actions from your morning routine. Do you really need to empty the dishwasher or pick-up your children's toys? If the task is not getting you closer to walking out the door, at what time can it be scheduled for doing later?
  • Streamline your processes for getting ready. Is there a breakfast option which is easier to prepare that you can have daily without thinking about it? Might you be able to simplify styling your hair or how you apply make-up? Are there toiletry products you can use to accomplish multiple functions?
  • Use hacks to boost your energy from the start. What can you do to get up and get moving immediately upon waking up? Would there be any early workout you could start, should you try the 7 Minute Workout app or do you have a friend to meet for Zumba first-thing? Do you have an upbeat playlist in your music that you could incorporate in your morning routine? Beyond that, drinking a tall glass of water with a squeeze of lemon juice will certainly improve your morning energy level.
  • Choose which task management approach works better for you. As an elephant is eaten one bite at a time, it's imperative to break projects into smaller, more manageable action items, starting each of these on your to-do list with a specific verb. Then, you can choose to "swallow the frog", where you start with the most difficult task first, or you can adopt the philosophy that "activity breeds activity", where you start with a simpler task to get moving on getting things done.
  • Know from the get-go which are today's must-do tasks. It is more realistic to start each day with a to-do list of 3 - 5 items that must get done that day, whether those are appointments or tasks. If that list is not readily available, you'll waste time determining what to do when; therefore, make sure that list is front and center upon entering your workspace.
How do you regularly start your day? Which of the aforementioned best practices can you incorporate within your morning routine to promote greater success?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Sunday Well Spent Leads to Productivity All Week

A solid foundation is necessary for building success. When you take time on Sunday to lay stable groundwork for the week ahead, you are more likely to successfully address what matters most with fewer distractions, less stress and greater efficiency. Balancing time to recharge, relax and refill your tank with investing in preparations for the week ahead can be challenging; here's a sample weekly prep checklist to guide your efforts and ensure nothing's forgotten as you get ready to start the new week:

  • Complete your weekly strategy session. As our brains are meant for thinking, not remembering, it's imperative to document a clear, meaningful path for achieving your priority goals, specifying how to address tasks, team communications, time commitments and opportunities for development. Using both your calendar and running data dump of tasks needing your attention, create a game plan that can be used as a protective barrier, warding off time stealers and others' priorities like your own suit of armor.
  • Create in your space a blank slate for addressing your priorities. Take away what physical distractions or hurdles will prevent progress. 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). Give homes to what has come into your entryway. Move back to their homes what might have shifted throughout your home or automobile. Clear your clutter!
  • Get a head start on what you can for the week ahead. Often, a good place to start is with marketing efforts... 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? Yet, don't stop with marketing efforts alone; consider what other projects or tasks could benefit from a head-start. Take action now to double-check what's up so you don't worry later about what might've fallen through the cracks.
  • 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 eating unhealthy meals. Instead, take time to plan your meals, including options for using a slow-cooker or Instant Pot®, cooking mass amounts over the weekend for meals throughout the week, ways in which the same elements can be reused in different ways, pre-packing lunches and preparing breakfast the night before. Assuming you eat 3 meals each day, there are 21 opportunities for creatively streamlining, but you don't have to pre-assign each meal; you could create a list of options for the week and pick from the list in preparation for each next day.
  • Lay out each day's outfit for the week ahead. Check the forecast, incorporate what you have planned and pick out the details for what will be necessary so you aren't scrambling in the morning. This should include what purse or bag to carry, what jewelry to wear and what undergarments are needed. It's an excellent opportunity to make sure everything in the your closet is hung or wherever 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 event.
  • Connect with those who matter most. 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 and love you will fuel your soul and re-enforce your identity. Then, talk through logistics with your team; 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 pre-school calling in a panic because someone got left behind, right?
  • Wash and change your bed sheets as well as bath towel. There's a true joy felt when jumping into bed on Sunday night with clean sheets, even more so than another night of the week. It's such a quality way to create that desired foundation for the week ahead, signifying a clean slate and fresh start.

What steps do you take each Sunday to prepare for the week ahead? By when will you implement which of these steps into your weekly routine? Will this checklist help you be more proactive and, thereby, more successful?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Regularly Perform a Time Audit for Optimum Output

Productivity is efficiently working at effectively achieving desired results, and there are so many thoughts about how to best boost productivity. People often refer to work-life balance as a viable option; yet, in thinking about "balance", I see a seesaw, forcing a perception of costs needed for success. I don't believe my work competes with my life, seeing how they regularly complement each other instead. Further, although balance would be static, life is certainly not and requires fluid solutions to address one's ever-changing priorities for the various layers of work, home, community or society and the private realm of mind, body and spirit, known as work-life integration.

As Stephen R. Covey explains, "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 when all elements of life work in harmony that we are more effective in attaining our goals; the return on time invested in one element can enhance results experienced from investing time elsewhere, like how skills garnered from leading a volunteer committee can transfer to running a household more efficiently or parenting teenage children.

Whereas operating with harmony between how we invest our time and what matters most amplifies success, misalignment between one's actions and one's goals, priorities or values causes burnout. Achieving this necessary alignment gets complicated as our priorities fluctuate daily, weekly, monthly... Some days will need a greater investment of time in work while others should focus more on community or home, requiring fluidity to shift between work, home, community or society and the private realm of mind, body and spirit as needed. Without regular reflection, there is often a discrepancy between the way we spend our time and how our time should be invested to achieve what outcomes we most want or need. Encourage harmony while discouraging misalignment by regularly completing a time audit to verify each action is in agreement with what matters most.

A time audit is an assessment that can be done at whatever interval is necessary, making it the best tool for looking at exactly how our time is being used to better understand where our time is going and evaluate whether using any minutes in a different way would more quickly move us toward more efficiently attaining our goals. This can be completed by keeping a log of how each minute is used, whether paper or electronic, and, then, taking time to reflect upon what the log says regarding how our time is being used and verifying that it's how we'd really like to spend our time, highlighting time wasted versus time invested.

How do you monitor the ways you're investing your time? How often do you examine that investment to make sure your actions align with your goals, priorities and values? How will you utilize a time audit to amplify your success?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Use Gratitude to Encourage Greater Productivity

As defined online, gratitude is "the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness", stemming from the Latin word for "pleasing" or "thankful" and providing great emotional fuel.

Gratitude can be a very powerful tool in your productivity toolbox. As Lifehack explains, "Gratitude is a frame for reality, which enables us to align with the good in the world as well as the evolutionary progress of the human race." Research shows how gratitude improves productivity in many different ways: higher energy, alertness, enthusiasm, determination and attentiveness; lower stress, anxiety and depression; improved sleep and decreased illness.

According to HubSpot, there's a causal chain, where "Writing down what you're thankful for increases happiness; happiness increases productivity." Thus, documenting that for which you are grateful can be one of the easiest, least expensive and most effective ways to boost productivity. Yet, it requires a habit of documenting, not simply thinking about, that which makes you grateful.

Whether via your mobile devices Notes application, an electronic journal, a log of videos or a paper notebook, take time to jot down that for which you're grateful each day. I prefer to incorporate this in my daily wrap-up, ending each day reflecting upon the day that I just lived, but it's most important to choose whatever time of day is something you can maintain. Some days, you may be in a rush and have time to add only one item to your list; other days, you may be able to go into more depth and roll off several items for which you are grateful. Regardless of how many you list each day, the process of recognizing all your gifts will drive awareness, fuel gratitude and increase productivity.

What tool will you use to document your gratitude? Will it be electronic or paper? What can you include as today's gratitude list?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Which Tasks Can You Complete Quickly?

There is a well-known quote that instructs each of us to "plan your work and work your plan", which provides valuable insights for how to be more successful and better achieve more desired results. With a weekly strategy session, we create a game plan for addressing our priorities through tasks, communications, time commitments and development opportunities, staying on track toward achieving our most important goals via the habit of a daily wrap-up at the end of each day. Yet, there are times when we find that we can do even more than that which we'd planned to accomplish.

Maybe traffic was light and you arrived at your next appointment with a few moments to spare. Maybe one of your meetings ended early, giving you extra minutes before the next commitment. Maybe you had a cancellation, which opened up an unexpected block of time. That time can be a gift for boosting productivity.

If you have no guidance as to what can fit within the available time, you might spend 5 of your 10 available minutes determining your 10-minute tasks, which leaves only 5 minutes to actually get anything done. Alternatively, if you denote within your data-dump of tasks how long each will take, you'll know immediately which take 10 minutes and easily plug what fits into the available time.

Don't lose minutes. Make the most of your time, optimizing the most limited of your resources. Know which of your to-do items can be completed quickly so fewer valuable minutes are wasted determining possible tasks for small windows of available time, whether 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes or another increment.

How do you optimize your task management efforts, filling small windows of time as they become available for accomplishing more?