Every day is busy and each project, task and appointment seem equally important to complete. When we get too busy, it’s hard to prioritize. As a result, it’s harder to make sure we are focused on our priorities. Does it seem like a vicious cycle? I am here to help with a simple idea and a download to help you each day set priorities and keep up with your goals.
The problem: are you focusing on the priorities?
We get a lot done! But are you getting the right things done? Some tasks take care of themselves and some need focus. It seems the tasks that are easy to us get done. However, the tasks with extra steps, those that take longer or there is an element of fear, these don’t get attention. These tasks can be laundry, meal preparation, a report for work or taxes. We may never be without underwear, but we might have that nagging feeling there is something we are missing.
The solution: Your 3 Most Important Tasks
As Zen Habits notes, put purpose in your day with your 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs). The idea is that the 3 tasks must get done today, no matter. If additional tasks are accomplished, that’s a productivity bonus. Your most important tasks are individual to you and your goals. “What are the three most important things that I could do today that will help move me closer to my goals?” The goals could be about relationships, spirituality, productivity, work, or exercise. A task is one small step of advancing to your goal.
Start your 3MITs here.
Let’s move into action with your 3 MITs. This download is a way to set your MITs, remind you of your goals, and set a time to accomplish your MITs. Set a time each day, at the end or beginning of your day, to write these down. Think about your day and when is the best time for your work on each task.
Most people find that the end of the day is the best time to work on the MITs. When you start your day it’s already focused. If you write your MITs in the morning, get an early start so you can not only write but start your day on time. Creating this system for MITs helps you knock out your tasks early in the day too.
Your MITs will help you get the most important tasks done more consistently. That’s the whole idea behind productivity!
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Each morning I am noticing the sun rising earlier, indicating it’s almost time for us to Spring Forward with a time change. While not something easy to embrace, the extra sunshine at the end of the day is a bonus. What ways can we use that daylight hour to Spring Forward take better care of ourselves as well? Here’s a few ideas I have.
Sunny, happy times
Research shows the value of sunshine on our emotional well being. Longer days mean more sunshine. Sunlight cues seratonin, boosting your mood, helping you be calm and helping you stay focused. Getting 15 minutes of sunshine boosts Vitamin D which helps bone health.
Time for exercise
Studies show that walking 10,000 steps in a day helps us keep active both physically and mentally. With busy days that start early, the sunny evening time is great for a walk. Walking with your partner and kids is a bonus time for communication and sharing what’s happened that day.
Time for dinner
Longer daylight hours give us extra time to prepare dinner. Sitting down to dinner during daylight energizes you and your family. The Family Dinner project shares ways to include easy meals to help you get dinner on the table.
Routines that make the most of extra daylight
- End your day with meditation with the Headspace app.
- Create a checklist for routines with dinner, including family members cooking and cleaning together.
- Plan time for exercise with a family walk or bike ride.
- Create a good sleep routine by stopping technology an hour before bedtime, keeping your bedtime the same, and keeping clutter out of your bedroom.
- Spend 15 minutes with spring organizing at the end of your day. Daylight will keep you energized.
By embracing this change, like all other changes, you will find more order and productivity in your day.
I recently completed Coach Approach for Organizers coaching class named Strength Based Coaching. I have always thought about using your strengths to maximize productivity and organizing. A strength based effort felt right, much more so than focusing on weaknesses. Strengths capitalize on success, while weaknesses may make us feel like we are not capable. While learning, I thought of my clients and how they focus on strengths to get more done. Here’s 4 ways to use your strengths to be more productive.
How do I know my strengths?
When you look back at your schooling, what did you find worked well to learn? Did you see it, hear it, do it, talk about it, write about it, think it through or just feel it was right? There are many modalities we use to learn with and those are the same strengths we use as adults. Look back and reflect on what was easiest for you. Whether it’s learning new technology like a smart phone or learning new tasks at work, we are always learning. For me, I learned that I am a visual and tactile learner. I like to see information to learn it and write out information to solidify my learning. I use my cognitive modality to create frameworks and systems to incorporate learning.
How do I use these strengths for planning?
The debate continues for paper or digital planners. Look to your strengths to help you decide what works for you. A paper planner works well for visual and tactile learners. You can easily see all the details on paper and write in your dates and tasks. A digital planner works well for auditory learners. Auditory reminders make it easier for auditory learners. For verbal processors, that being people who like to speak to process, setting up a family or work meeting helps. Verbal processors are talking through the upcoming dates and plans. Setting a consistent date, like every Sunday evening, commits you to planning as well. Think through the ways you can use your strengths to determine your planning tools.
How do I use my strengths for maintaining a task list?
There’s oodles of choices for list making. With a visual or tactile strength, a basic notebook can help you get started. Post it notes can be an option for kinesthetic modality. You write one task on one note, post them, and then tear them up once completed. If you are an auditory learner, using reminder chimes help you get tasks done. If you a cognitive processor, one who thinks through the options, you want to categorize your list. It’s easier to be productive with a framework. A verbal processor will want to talk through the list as it is created. For cognitive processors who like a framework, establishing a system for tasks is just what’s needed. We can all approach tasks differently using our strengths to be successful.
How do I use my strengths for organizing?
An organized person is a productive person. Getting organized is a basic step for being more productive. What does organized look or feel like to you? That’s the key! Organized is different for each of us. For those who are visual, it can be a minimal environment with few distractions or a lovely aesthetic. For auditory strengths, you might have classical music in the background. Based on the kinesthetic strength, you may want a standing desk. Keeping aware of your modality helps you maintain your organized space too.
What about all these other things I am not getting done?
When your productivity is lagging despite using your strengths, delegating and collaborating are options. Find an assistant , team member or colleague who has strengths that match your weaknesses. When you delegate, start with a small, specific, deadline driven task. When you collaborate, be sure everyone knows their specific job and when it is due. Keep your deadlines short so you can communicate and stay on track.
I have not shared all the modalities we explored. To learn more, check out Denslow Brown’s book, The Processing Modalities Guide. I know it will create curiosity and interest for you.
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In honor of national Get Organized Month, I’d like to offer you a simple, organized strategy to achieve your goals in 2017. A template can be the best practice for achieving any goal. It’s a standard that you use to accomplish a task, series of tasks and goal. More than ever, we have many goals and not much accomplished. Celebrate national Get Organized Month this year by applying this strategy each day in January and assessing it’s value on January 31.
Step 1: Identify your goal
Write down what you want as a goal. Be specific, measurable, realistic, and detailed to make accomplish the goal. By writing it down, you are also committing to success.
Step 2: Write out advantages for accomplishing your goal
Each advantage gives you justification of why to accomplish this goal now and how it fits your values and needs. The more advantages you write down, the more likely you will keep working the system. These benefits justify your time and energy.
Step 3: Note obstacles to reach this goal.
What stands in the way? Spell out obstacles to overcome and what will hold you back. Identifying a challenge early on keeps you from being discouraged or giving up when the obstacle occurs.
Step 4: Add in skills or knowledge required to reach this goal
There is more to accomplishing a goal than just desire. At times, it requires higher level skills and learning. Identify what you need to learn or what training is needed to reach your goal.
Step 5: Create a team to reach your goal
Look for support and assistance around you. There’s others who have strengths and skills to be collaborators. With this in mind, who can be part of your team to assist you to reach this goal? Reach out and partner up to reach your goal.
Step 6: Plan your work and work your plan
Write down your detailed plan of action of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks to reach this goal. Go beyond the planning phase and be sure to execute each step as planned. Assign a completion date for your goal. Every task and project requires a deadline. Set a realistic deadline for you to complete your goal. Your deadline keeps you accountable to accomplishing your goal.
Step 7: Assess your success
There’s an equal amount of learning both strengths and fails in accomplishing a goal. It’s important to celebrate the accomplishment. Just as important is reviewing attaining the goal. When you assess, you are looking for continuous, small improvements, also known as the kaizen method.
I’d love to hear about your progress in using this system. What flaws are you encountering? What’s holding you back? What’s working well? Your daily practice during Get Organized Month for 31 days will serve you well to create a new habit.
I recently spoke to a group of 20 women business owners. I said, “who’s busy?” Everyone raised their hands. Not surprising, right?
There’s not much time to pause in our busy world. At work there are tasks, projects and deadlines. At home we focus on our family. There’s the rush of thoughts and feelings when something went off kilter. At times we think we should forge ahead and just get on with whatever we are doing. There’s much to think about and no time to think about it. A pause could make a difference in your stress level, in your decision making, and in your happiness. It’s not only moving that creates new starting points. Sometimes all it takes is a subtle shift in perspective, an opening of the mind, an intentional pause and reset, or a new route to start to see new options and new possibilities (Kristin Armstrong). Here’s some ways to pause.
Maybe you haven’t thought about breathing and how it affects our brains. When we take a deep breath and let it out slowly, we are slowing down our body mechanisms and our brain. Controlled breathing “may be the most potent tool we have to prevent our brains from keeping us in a state of stress, and preventing subsequent damage caused by high stress levels.” Creating a pause physiologically helps us.
Say a prayer
A client shared with me how she recites the “Serenity Prayer” when she needs a pause. Whether it’s her kids fighting or a decision to make about work, her prayer gives her a pause and helps her focus on what’s important to you. It may be a few words or something memorized, prayer is centering and mindful.
Drink water or get a snack
It’s difficult to hydrate sufficiently. Our bodies require more water than we think about regularly. Pausing to drink water gives us a physical lift too. When we think of the benefit, add a sip of water as a pause. A protein filled snack can do the same. It’s a break to fuel.
Make a connection
Whether it’s a smile, a hug, a text or a phone call, making a connection is a pause. Connections yield self-confidence, empathy, empowerment and positivity. Keep connected during a pause with tools like your phone. A connected person is a happy person.
Talk a walk
Getting up and moving around is a physical and mental pause. Getting outside in the green space does even more to give you a pause. Taking a walk gives you time to reflect, engage, create new perspectives and go back to work ready.
Take a nap
A nap is the ultimate pause! When you are tired, your brain is stuck and you have no energy to proceed, a nap is the best way to pause. It’s my favorite way to pause!
How can you create an awareness of when to pause? Is there an emotion you recognize with anger or fear? Is it a feeling like a clenched jaw or stomach pain? Start to recognize when a pause can make what you are doing easier and more in line with your values and needs.
Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? It’s also known as the Pareto principle. The concept is that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. It’s seen as a short cut to being more focused, more organized and more productive. Here’s some statistics that show the 80/20 rule.
- At home, we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time.
- At work, 80% of a company’s profits come from 20% of its customers
- When you volunteer, 20% of the volunteers do 80% of the effort.
- What’s the benefit you can find in the Pareto Principle?
Pare down 80% of your clothes.
Our closets are jammed and we have nothing to wear. It’s time to use the hanger trick where you turn your hangers around of the clothes you wear. It’s a study in what you truly wear. Once you see this, you are ready to let go of your unworn clothes.
Spend 80% of your time on the most important 20%.
Prioritize the most important projects for work and home. It might seem like everything is equally important, however it’s not possible. Drill down what’s your most important and schedule work for this at your high energy times. Scheduling your work both at home and at your job ensures success.
File and scan documents using the 80/20.
Have you created files and never went back to these? Where can you find the information, when you need it, most easily? Know what to keep and keep what you need. You might be keeping 80% more than you need so pare down ruthlessly.
Rethink 80% of your activities and find the 20% you are committed to
We are busy! We find ourselves in many different groups, joining more than one Bunco group or book club. We are taking our kids to many activities. It’s time to rethink 80% of your activities. You will find that you are less stressed. You will enjoy your activities more because you have fewer.
You will find that the 80/20 rule will be one of your most referenced math equations once you see how it applies to your life.
Fall has started and we are ready for a fresh start too. With the routines of back to school, vacations complete and holidays approaching, we look forward to a fresh start. It just feels right to get back into routines. According to Scientific American, Fall is a “temporal landmark” or date that sets our fresh start feelings into motion. More of us get organized in the Fall than the New Year. Take off with that Fall Fresh Start feeling with these tips for freshening up spaces at home and at work.
Fall Fresh Start for your Closet
Still looking in your closet and seeing nothing to wear? It’s time for a Fall Fresh Start. Take a good look at what has not been worn in the last year and be brutal. Let go of clothes that you would not wear today. If you would not wear it today, despite the weather, you’re probably not going to wear it at all. Not sure if you can be brutal alone? Invite a friend or family member in there with you and get their honest opinion of what to keep.
Fall Fresh Start for your Kitchen
You’re back in the lunch cycle and dinners at home need to be easy. Holidays are coming and that requires more time cooking. Get a Fall Fresh Start in your kitchen by clearing out the pantry. Take items out, check expiration dates and organize this area like a grocery store. You will see what you have extra items, know what’s ready to go for lunch and dinner, and be ready for holiday preparations.
Fall Fresh Start for Your Papers
Take 15 minutes at a time to review papers at home and at work. There are papers you have set aside and now are ready to shred or recycle. Each fall more papers have come in as activities gear up from our own special interests and our kids’ back to school. Your Fall Fresh Start for papers includes eliminating paper, making fresh categories, and getting back into good routines for administrative work.
At home, set aside an hour to create files, eliminate files and do a little tax preparation. It’s a good time to really dig deep into your files and be sure you are only keeping what you need. It’s time to actually do some filing!
At work, check on not only your files but also your command center. It’s the spot where your projects and resources are easily accessible. If its become stagnant and filled with completed projects, renovate it with what’s current.
Fall Fresh Start for your Desk
If your desk has become cluttered with everything including the kitchen sink, a Fall Fresh Start is what you need to boost your productivity. Clear the surface of paper and stuff. Keep out on your desk top only the tools you need and return items to where they belong. Remember to use a list rather than an item as a reminder. Gather up your sticky notes and place them in a resource notebook rather than posted on your computer screen.
Fall Fresh Start for your Digital Documents
Digital documents can be harder to find than paper documents. Our digital disorder takes time and creates frustration. A Fall Fresh Start is what’s needed to easily access data and add productivity. Look at your files and check out what you need. Add general, broad files to house documents. Remove or archive documents for completed projects. Move items from your desktop or from emails to your digital files. It’s a bit tedious but makes finding documents and spreadsheets much easier.
How to get started on your Fall Fresh Start? It’s adding dates for your work to your calendar and working in a team. Your date is your commitment to work. Your team will make the work easier and more fun. I hope you will share your Fall Fresh Start work here too!
Do you ever find a list from months ago, read it and see how much was accomplished? Even when we are not as intentional as we prefer, by simply writing stuff down we get more done. In Write It Down, Make It Happen, Henriette Anne Klauser, PhD, explains how simply writing down your goals in life is the first step toward achieving them.
So why not make it easy to write stuff down? Here are 5 ways to write stuff down.
Cute spiral notebook
A cute spiral notebook that fits in your purse or work bag is an easy way to write stuff down. You can quickly add to it and use it. The key is cute because “cute counts” and you will use it more as a result.
Large size post it note
A super large post it note is a lovely thing! It sticks so you don’t lose it. It’s a visual way to keep up with your tasks. Many tasks can be listed on this one sticky.
Never lose your list again! Keep a clip board with your list attached. It’s an easy way to find your list. With a nail, your list can be hung on a wall.
Go electronic with your list. Evernote helps you keep away from scraps of paper you lose. Creating Evernote notebooks keeps your list organized and accessible.
Maybe you want to dictate your lists instead? Use the microphone icon on your smart phone to dictate into either Evernote, Note,Wunderlist or any of your favorite list making apps.
You want to make it easier to write stuff down than you can imagine. Try one of these choices this week and see what happens.
There’s lots of reasons to decide to get organized. There’s even more reasons to decide to be productive. It can be a feeling that you need to be more in control or less stressed. It can be a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. However, there are smart clutter and organizing statistics that may make more of a compelling reason for you to get started. Check these out!
- Getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40% of the housework in an average home? (National Soap and Detergent Association). Wouldn’t we all like to do less housework? It’s a compelling reason to declutter and simplify.
- The average employee wastes $5251 a year in time searching for information. (ARMA International) Being organized at work saves everyone money in your business. It also saves frustration. In organizing your paper, you are making it easy to focus on what’s most important.
- 64% of workers feel most productive from 8 am – 12 noon (Wrike Survey.) Clear out mornings to do your most important work. When we do the first thing first, it’s a big pay off. Remember to set aside time for your highest priorities early in the day.
- Americans who own smartphones or tablets spend, on average, 2 hours and 38 minutes “glued” to their mobile devices (Flurry Analytics.) You may not have realized how much time you are spending with your devices. Set your technology aside to get more done. Be sure you are charging these in a common area at night to maximize your rest.
- Research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that the mind slows down when it switches back and forth between tasks. Focus requires spending your time on a single task and creating a flow of single tasks. Being single focus means you can check off items and feel good about completion. Doing too much makes you dumber and slower.
These surprising statistics give you great reasons to get started organizing or find new ways to be more productive. Whether it’s at home or at the office, it’s good to know there are statistics to back up your efforts.