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

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?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Assign a "When" for Each "What" to Get More Wins

In planning for each day, week, month, quarter or year, we all have things we want to accomplish. Sometimes, they are big, and, other times, they are small; however, we all have accomplishments that we aspire to achieve. Hopefully, we are documenting them somewhere instead of counting on simply remembering them; then, we can funnel that running list through our priorities to incorporate in our weekly strategy and pinpoint on a specific date with our daily wrap-up, but that doesn't always work as planned.

When you look at your data dump of tasks needing your attention, until time is allocated for moving each action from a to-do to being done, it's a list of things you wish you could accomplish. That's it. Only when you carve out time in your schedule for getting them done do they become goals and start looking more like a to-do list.

Many of us fall into the trap of thinking "I'll do that when things calm down" or "I'll get to that someday" or "I'll plug that in when I get a few spare moments". I've yet to find a calendar that includes someday; calendars include Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday but not someday. Does anyone ever have free time magically appear in our schedules? Does life calm down without proactively working to slow things down a bit? I believe it requires a different approach to get things done.

Assign each task that you want to accomplish specific time in your schedule, and you'll be much more able to get it done. With this move toward task management, every "what" is given a "when", meaning there is time allocated for getting it done, and you'll be able to actually complete it during that assigned time. You don't have to schedule every 15-minute block in your calendar, but it helps to have a general idea of how you'll invest each day's 1,440 minutes, which is fluid and flexible, allowing you to adjust as needed while being guide down that clear path to achievement.

Experience tells me this will empower you for greater success and make you more likely to win at the game of accomplishing your goals, but I'd love to hear about your experiences. What tactics have you found most successful for moving tasks from to-do to done? Do you create synergy between your calendar and to-do list?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Stay on Track with a Daily Wrap-Up

Are you familiar with the quote "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry"? This is a common experience for people as they strive to boost productivity. The week starts with a plan, something shifts, and that initial plan seems to no longer fit. Maybe a client has an urgent, unexpected issue arise and needs your time to get the situation resolved. Or a team member calls in sick, leaving you to cover the tasks that can't fall through the cracks. Perhaps one of your employees needs direction to meet a deadline, pulling you away from your must-do list to answer questions.

There are two ways to respond: either feel like the week is lost or make adjustments to get back on track. I find daily adjustments enable achieving my priority goals and fuel my desired results.

Completed at the end of each day, the following checklist enables the necessary adjustments and better empowers staying on track:

  • Communications - Get end-of-day updates from appropriate team members, touching bases to drive awareness and get everyone on the same page; think outside the box to include all team members, like employees, subcontractors, vendors, family members, roommates, volunteer committee members and more. Touch bases with new and returning "hot prospects" to increase your awareness of what is happening while keeping you in the other folks' awareness. Verify you're up-to-date processing received emails and following up on voice mail.
  • Tasks - Review your must-do list from the day that's ending and look over the next day's anticipated to-do list. Are all important tasks included that need attention to meet impending deadlines? If something wasn't completed today, determine at what point in the next few days time can be allocated for completing those carryover tasks. It is realistic to plan for fulfilling 3-5 actions on any given date, and knowing beforehand which are your must-do items for the next day will allow you to hit the ground running when you return to work.
  • Time Commitments - Evaluate your schedule for the next day and verify that you are prepared for everything scheduled. If you are not prepared, when will that preparation occur? Does your calendar include buffers and time to get where is needed?
  • Space - Whether you're in 4 walls, an open office space, a vehicle or working from a bag, tidy up your workspace. File new items and put that day's work back into each item's home, creating a blank slate for the next day. Make sure what you need for the next day's activities is ready and accessible.
  • Successes - We live in a do, do, do society, meaning we don't necessarily take time to reflect on meeting the goals for which we strive. Instead, each day, celebrate all you've accomplished in the day that's ending. If you got out of bed, you accomplished something, and acknowledging that is motivating. Stop the monotony of simply getting things done, and acknowledge what you've successfully completed to encourage continued productivity. Make sure you take time to celebrate daily successes, no matter how large or small.
  • Gratitude - As there is a vast amount of research regarding the many ways gratitude improves productivity, use the power of gratitude to drive your daily productivity. End each day with gratitude, and denote that for which you are grateful each day. Don't stop with simply thinking of that for which you are grateful; actually say it out loud or document in a gratitude list at least 1 thing for which you feel grateful every day.
What is your experience? Do you take time at the end of each day to properly wrap-up the day that's ending as well as plan for the next day? What successes can you share from practicing this habit? On the flip side, what issues have arisen when you've been unable to regroup daily and end each day getting back on track? What aspects of this checklist can you start implementing today?

Monday, January 8, 2018

Location, Location, Location

Although you might be familiar with the phrase "location, location, location" that's frequently used by realtors when you are searching for the ideal spot to live or work, but did you know it's equally applicable for organizing your workspace to be another tool in your productivity toolbox? It is with this mantra that you can be certain each item in your office is assigned a home that works for your needs.

In real estate, "location, location, location" applies to finding a home that's close to what amenities or destinations you want to easily access for an ideal life or finding a business spot that's in close proximity to your clients. Alternatively, when it comes to organizing your workspace, this refrain applies equally well to prioritizing 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 item.

The second Monday of January each year is recognized as National Clean Off Your Desk Day, making today the ideal opportunity to begin your new year with a clean and organized workspace. Whether in a private or shared office, in your home or in a cubicle, having a desk that is uncluttered and designed for your success helps you work more efficiently, making today the perfect time to consider the "location, location, location" of what's atop your desk.

Step one is to evaluate anything atop your desk and make sure you need or want to keep it there. Retain only what is accurate, applicable, useful or bringing you joy. Decide what to trash, recycle, donate, move elsewhere or keep in your space. Remember that the less you have in your office then the less you need to sift through to quickly find what's needed.

Step two is to determine how often you utilize each item you are planning to keep. Physical items, papers, files or tools that you use more frequently earn a higher priority and can be kept closer to where you sit; alternatively, anything used rarely can be moved farther away. It is by knowing how often something is used that you can proceed through the organizing process.

Step three is to use those determinations in assigning homes for what's to remain. When something is assigned a home, you can more seamlessly return it to that location after each time you use it, meaning assigned homes can save time while lessening the stress of decision-making. When possible, group related items together, and position items near where they will be used. Anything used more frequently should be assigned space closer to you while less frequently used items move further away based on how much often less they get utilized.

Step four is to replicate the same process you used in cleaning off your physical desktop to clean off your computer's desktop. Those same principles that I mentioned previously apply to your technology; plus, when your computer home screen is cluttered, it slows down how well your laptop or desktop works, particularly if you use a PC as opposed to a Mac.

Pause for a moment to celebrate all the desktop you can now see and, then, schedule time to maintain the systems you created. Maybe you'll schedule time at the end of each day to put away what items have found their ways atop your desk. Maybe you'll commit to getting caught back up at the end of each week. Choose a maintenance system that works for your specific workflow and personality, but make sure to select some method of keeping that desk cleaned off so you continue to reap the benefits of greater organization and enhanced productivity.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Use a Timer to Boost Productivity

Maybe you are struggling with procrastination and simply cannot get started. Maybe you get distracted easily and want to better stay on track. Maybe you are overwhelmed by all that needs to get done and are drowning in what you're doing. No matter what might be your challenge for getting organized to boost productivity, a timer might be the most powerful tool to help you get things done.

Here are a handful of ways in which using a timer can help you better achieve your priority goals:
  • Build momentum by getting started - As the old adage goes, activity breeds activity, which means working on a given task to a limited amount of time can propel you to continue working on it, making more progress towards its completion. Working on any task can energize you to get it all done.
  • Eliminate procrastination - When struggling to find time to get started working on a big, hairy, audacious goal, it could be that you are frozen by the thought of all the time needed for the entire project rather than the individual tasks going into that overall project. Setting a timer for 5 minutes, 10 minutes or, even 30 minutes can get the ball rolling on any of those smaller, more manageable action items, giving a more realistic view of how long the entire project will take as compared to the intimidating mountain created in your mind.
  • Shorter work times feel less overwhelming - If the task you have been avoiding is something you really don't want to do, knocking it out in shorter sessions of time can make it much less daunting. I mean, you can do anything for a short amount of time, right? When you envision something you truly dislike doing, it can be much less bad if attacked for a shorter interval.
  • Work harder if for shorter durations - If you have all afternoon to complete a task, it is likely to take that entire time; however, if you set a timer for a much shorter amount of time, you will race to beat the clock. Shorter spans of effort energize greater results, and you are likely to get the task accomplished much more quickly, maybe even finishing the entire task in that shorter amount of time.
  • Compete against prior times to do tasks - When faced with a to-do item that you complete regularly, it might feel more mundane and tend to drag on more with each iteration. If you set a timer for slightly less time than it took to complete the task previously, you race the clock, competing against yourself, and can often get it done more quickly.
  • Stay on task to make greater progress - It is easy to get pulled away from the task at hand, running off on a tangent or following some distraction. Does "Ooooo... Bright shiny thing!" or "chasing squirrels" sound familiar? If so, setting a timer for the length of time you want to invest in any given task can keep you on track; when the timer goes off, if you are still working on the task at hand, you are success, but, if you've followed a distraction, you have to start the timer over again. Set a timer for short intervals and repeat that for whatever number of intervals is needed to achieve your desired result, making sure you are still on task after each interval.
Whether you implement the timer built into your phone, utilize a kitchen timer or try out the Time Timer app, this tool in your productivity toolbox will prove helpful in moving you more efficiently toward achieving your priority goals.

How do you currently utilize a timer? How have you seen using a timer boost your focus and productivity? What are some of your greatest success stories? If not yet, by when can you give a timer a try? How do you envision a timer fueling desired results?

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Knowing Where You're Headed Helps in Getting There

At times, it seems like the world is conspiring against anyone's attempts at productivity. You sit down at your computer to work on a major project, and your mind wanders to all the things you've forgotten to address; you see a pop-up notifying you of a new email, and an alert appears on your smartphone that someone liked your photo on Facebook. The phone begins ringing. Then, someone appears at your office door in a panic and needing your help. How can anyone actually get anything done?!?

When you know where you're headed, you are better enabled to get there. If you create a strategy each week for how to best address what matters most, you have a clear, meaningful path for achieving your priority goals. To make this work, it's important to utilize your weekly strategy as a protective barrier, warding off time stealers and others' priorities, like your own personal suit of armor.

With a weekly strategy, you know which tasks, communications, time commitments and development opportunities focus on your priorities, fueling achievement of your goals. If you don't use this strategy to protect yourself from the world's distractions and conflicting priorities, it's easy to get swept up in reactionary measures, losing vision of what matters most.

Stop getting swept up in what's urgent but unimportant. Stop reacting. Start using your weekly strategy to proactively invest in what's important. Grow confident that you can consistently work toward your priority goals by wearing your protective barrior.

How do you utilize your weekly strategy to ward off time stealers and others' priorities? Have you ever considered how your strategy can protect you from deviating away from what matters most?

Friday, January 5, 2018

Be Proactive with a Weekly Strategy Session

Imagine it's Friday afternoon and you're preparing to walk out the door for the weekend. Looking back on the work week that's ending, how accomplished are you feeling? Did you effectively address what was important for work, home, your community and yourself? Or did you get pulled into others' priorities, spend your week putting out fires and neglect your goals?

If you feel less successful than you'd like, take steps to better address what matters most in upcoming weeks.

Those who have ever played or worked in athletics know there are many preparations that occur before each game, including scouting the opponent, preparing equipment and creating a game plan. Yes, during the game itself, there will be adjustments based off how the other team plays, but coaches would never lead their teams into athletic competitions without creating a game plan beforehand. It is about proactively creating the direction in which you will proceed rather than simply reacting to what's thrown your way, and the same philosophy applies to addressing your priorities for work, home, your community and making yourself the best possible.

Take control of your productivity by creating your own weekly strategy, which is a specific game plan for how you'll address your priorities in each of the following ways:

  • Carryover Tasks - Evaluate which of the tasks you'd planned to do during the week that's ending were actually completed; determine what's left undone and when those undone tasks can be rescheduled. Be honest with yourself about what you are actually willing to do. If not you, then who can accomplish what needs to get done? What can you delegate? Does each incomplete task truly need to happen or can any be deleted? 
  • Team Communications - Get in-depth updates from each member of your team (at work, at home, involved with the community projects you're currently addressing or those with whom you've contracted to get more done), seeking input on what is working, what is not working and what needs attention.
  • Client Communications - Catch-up on processing outstanding emails, phone calls and snail mail. Reach out to schedule time with those who have been needing your attention. Touch bases with clients from whom you've not heard lately, whether with gratitude, to wish a happy birthday or simply seeing how things are going. Sometimes, reaching out should include a call to action; however, realize that reaching out without a call to action can provide even greater results in certain scenarios.
  • New Tasks - As every project should be broken down into smaller, more manageable action steps with associated deadlines for their timely completion, there is a good chance upcoming deadlines are approaching, and there are tasks related to those deadlines that need addressing in the upcoming week. Decide which new tasks should be added to your to-do list, ensure you are clear on their associated deadlines, and make time for taking action to get them done.
  • Time Commitments - Review the next week's appointments to make certain you're prepared for all related tasks, ensuring there is time for necessary preparations and travel to each. Do you need to incorporate any additional buffers for traffic or unforeseen things that'll pop up? Do you know which will occur in person, over the phone or via video conference? Are you clear about how to get to each of the in-person commitments?
  • Development - Never neglect a focus on continually improving yourself. Determine opportunities for personal and professional growth; what will move you towards your goals? This could be training, networking or anything focused on fueling your desired results. Review what upcoming options have come to you via email, snail mail, websites you've seen or conversations you've had, and make decisions about which can earn space on your calendar, registering to attend once you've determined you will.

It is less important when you complete this process as compared to whether or not you get it done at all; many like to wrap-up the week with a weekly strategy session on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, but choose which works best for your unique situation.

Be strategic and map out a specific game plan for addressing all that needs your attention. Keep in mind each of the elements for work-life integration: work, home, community or society as well as the private realm of mind, body and spirit. As each of these elements is a layer of life with rotating levels of emphasis, focus on how you can best invest the upcoming week's 168 hours to address the current priorities within each realm of your life.

Especially when you first start implementing the weekly strategy session, set a timer. Knowing you have a certain amount of time in which to complete this checklist will keep you focused and better ensure your planning doesn't run longer than necessary.

Do you take time at the end of each week to properly plan the week ahead and proactively address your priorities? How does this equip you for greater productivity? On the flip side, what issues have you encountered when you haven't been able to plan adequately before starting your week?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Utilize Priorities as a Filter for Determining What To Do

Throughout the day, we are bombarded with items and people demanding our attention. Tasks come to us via email, calls, meeting notes and folks stopping by our offices in addition to the many, ongoing projects that need time to move towards completion. Amidst all the overwhelm, it's hard to know where to start, let alone how to get it all properly accomplished.

With all the attention on comic superheroes, it's easy to feel like Superman, Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel, but each of us is human and, therefore, can do only what's feasible within each day's constraints. Due to how many interruptions we face daily, it is realistic to plan 3 to 5 items that we intend on completing by the end of the day, leaving buffers for issues that arise.

To decide which of the many tasks on your running data dump of to-do items will make the cut for each day's must-do list, reflect on your top priorities. Which of the tasks on your list will fuel your success with your goals? Which tasks address what matters most for home, work, your community and taking care of yourself?

It's important to schedule your priorities rather than simply prioritizing whatever randomly falls onto your schedule. What you have established as your priorities should be what matters most, providing guidance for how you should best invest your limited resource of time. This allows you to proactively address the important things instead of reacting to others' priorities.

How many items are on your to-do list for today? If you're looking at a never-ending list right now, what steps can you take to focus on 3-5 items for this particular workday? What are your priorities, and how can you filter the never-ending list of what needs your attention through those to focus on what matters most?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Clarify Your Priorities

Within each day's 24 hours, we are gifted only 1,440 minutes; coupled with the fact each minute can be invested once, time is the most limited and valuable resource of all.

Saying "yes" to doing one thing is inherently saying "no" to doing something else, and you have to choose wisely in what activities you invest each minute in your limited inventory.

When a dollar is invested, it is with the hope that you will get more dollars in return. When a minute is invested, it is with the hope of an alternative return on investment, and what return you are seeking depends heavily on your priorities. Only when you know what matters most can you align your actions with those priorities to achieve your greatest goals.

Photo: Children's Ministry Magazine
Think of each day as a jar with limited space to fill. In that jar, you'd like to stuff tons of rocks, pebbles and sand. If you start with the sand, you may be able to shove in some pebbles, but you'll never be able to fit all the necessary rocks. Alternatively, if you start with the rocks, you can fill the spaces around those rocks with the pebbles and still fill the sand in amongst the remaining space. Comparing this to your day, think of the rocks as your highest priorities, for which you need to make time in your schedule first; then, the pebbles are lower priorities while the sand is even less important. Only by allocating time to your priorities first can you fit everything that matters into an already busy schedule.

One of the most effective methods for determining priorities is to consider the ramifications for completing each task versus leaving it undone. Depending on how well doing the task fuels your desired results, you can more easily rank that as what needs to be done first instead of later. Rather than getting swept up in what is urgent or on fire, focus on making time for what is most important.

What are your rocks or top priorities? How can you make sure time in your schedule is allocated for addressing those first, working the pebbles and sand into what time remains afterward?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Stop Depending on Remembering... Document Everything

Keeping track of our ever-growing to-do lists, resource materials, checklists, websites to reference and shopping lists gets progressively more overwhelming every day. The amount of information to be remembered is constantly increasing. How can we possibly remember it all, let alone take the actions necessary to respond to each request for attention?!?

No matter how we attempt to keep track of everything, we must keep in mind that our brains are meant for strategic and creative thinking, not remembering things. Our brains are less than ideal tools for keeping track of anything, and the biggest lie we tell ourselves is "I don't need to write that down; I'll remember it." How often does that actually work?

Get what must be remembered out of your head and document everything. Whether you choose a paper or electronic solution, do a data dump and collect it all in something other than your brain.

While you probably use a calendar for dates to remember, an address book for contacts' information and a task management solution for your must-do items, where do you cull together everything else that is overflowing your brain? Do you prefer a paper notebook, a mobile app or something accessible everywhere?

If you prefer a paper solution, I suggest you look at the Arc notebook system from Staples®. Once you choose which notebook size, style and color you prefer, you customize it with the type of paper preferred; then, you can segment the content to be retained with tab dividers, adjust the amount of paper that can be retained with expansion discs and move pages around by simply lifting them out and pressing them back into the rings however preferred.

I prefer to document everything in Evernote since it allows easy reference as I live, work and play on-the-go. This suite of applications allows me to use one username and password for accessing my information synced across all my devices (smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop as well as accessible via the Internet), it has unbelievable search capabilities to find exactly what I need when I need it, it allows for uploading an extensive amount of different content types in various ways, and it empowers me to easily share content with others to boost collaboration. Whether retaining typed text, web clippings, photos of handwritten notes, checklists, audio / video recordings, bills from service providers or files, I can easily add those to my Evernote database; plus, when adding content, there are so many ways to seamlessly accomplish it: manually, scanning from my phone or the Fujitsu ScanSnap, IFTTT, emailing, FileThis and many more options.

As an Evernote Certified Consultant, I often post about ways to implement Evernote for your greater success, how you can utilize Evernote to boost productivity and ways Evernote will help alleviate your stress as you achieve harmony through work-life integration. To find these many helpful hacks and tidbits, simply search Evernote in the top, left-hand corner of this blog.

Do you already have a tool you prefer using to remember everything? Are you trying to rely on your brain, do you rely on a paper solution or do you have an electronic option you prefer? Have you tried Evernote for culling it all together?

Monday, January 1, 2018

What Will Guide You to Success This New Year?

For many, it wouldn't feel like the start of a new year without setting resolutions, which are formal expressions of intentions made or declarations of what actions will be taken. The most common resolutions as we start a new year include get healthy, get organized, live life to the fullest, learn something new, find a better job, do more good deeds for others, be more fiscally responsible, work out more often and spend more time with loved ones. However, the success rate for resolutions tends to be abysmal. If you choose to set new year's resolutions, follow the advice of Valorie Burton, life coach and author of "Brave Enough to Succeed: 40 Strategies for Getting Unstuck", which outline how to choose the correct resolutions and more likely conquer those goals: be super specific, set a timeframe of strategic deadlines with a realistic timeline of milestones throughout, make sure your resolutions are achievable so you commit or quit, and recalibrate through failures as needed.

I, on the other hand, have found that resolutions don't fit the way I think. To me, they feel like yet another something for my to-do list. Instead, I sought a clear, meaningful path to guide my year, allowing me to live with intention and purpose, fulfilling one of my favorite mantras that "From those to whom much has been given much is expected." Rather than listing out new year's resolutions, I have started picking a "word of the year". Sometimes, it's simply a word for the upcoming season or it might change from month to month; it must be a word that really speaks to me and pulls together what I'd like to make happen in the foreseeable future.

When I first started choosing a word to guide my year, it seemed like a rarity; today, though, it is a much more widespread practice. A quick Google search for "what is your word of the year" pulls up a plethora of articles, blog posts and websites to help you choose what word works best for your specific needs and where you are in life. Delve deeper into the process with Blessing Manifesting, Create & Connect, Cultivate What Matters, kale & chocolateMy One Word, One Word 365 and Susannah Conway.

Going into 2018, I have chosen fulfillment as my word of the year. Searching Google for "define fulfillment" shows that this word means "the achievement of something desired, promised or predicted". This can cover so many things that matter a great deal to me in the new year, like fulfill dreams, fulfill goals, fulfill commitments, fulfill work-life integration, fulfill Greensboro LUNGe Forward's budget requirement, fulfill blog-writing consistency, fulfill RSVPs by showing up, fulfill outsourcing and fulfill business growth. For me, it's about follow-through, particularly as I remind myself that perfection is not required and, sometimes, done is better than perfect when getting things accomplished.

Maybe a word of the year is not enough for you, and that's quite alright. Maybe you'd prefer a phrase or mantra to guide your actions toward what results you'd like to achieve in 2018. There is no right or wrong option for what you choose; it's simply important to pick something that resonates with you, reflects what you desire and provides the direction necessary for getting from where you are to where you want to arrive.

With that word, phrase, mantra or resolution in mind to guide you to success, you are ready to embark upon the journey of 2018, writing the story you desire upon the blank pages of this year and taking with you the resources to best fuel what results you aspire to achieve. Let's launch this new year with "Get Organized Month", where I'll share a daily tidbit that's easy to implement for boosting your productivity, helping you more efficiently accomplish your goals and encouraging greater happiness.

For the new year, will you choose a guiding word, phrase, mantra or resolution? Please share what you've chosen in the comments so we can follow the advice of Alex Sheen, Founder of "because I said I would", who reiterates holding ourselves accountable for important commitments made amidst the over 15,942 words each American says daily.