Win the day with Time Blocking

time blocking

 

Do you face too many choices of what to do and when to do it?  Do you get paralyzed without a plan?  Are you distracted rather than productive? There is a way to move to a more structured day to gain control of your time and be proactive about your tasks and projects. Time blocking is documented strategy to be productive and effective. It gives you the opportunity to prioritize.

 

Time blocking fundamentals

What is time blocking? Time blocking is a time management strategy where you divide your days and weeks into units of time. Each time block has an assigned tasks or project. It is useful at both work and home to assign rather than choose an activity at a specific time.  There are many uses for time blocking. It prioritizes completing specific work rather than chopping up your day with distractions. You can set aside time blocks at home to get your errands done. You can also use time blocks to establish transition time between meetings, activities and errands.  Time blocking establishes the “when” of your “what To Do” list.  You will be adding an assigned time to accomplish the tasks you have listed.  By minimizing distractions, you are setting up productivity success. As Cal Newport writes, “my goal is to make sure progress is being made on the right things at the right  pace for the relevant deadlines.”  You can have this success too!

 

Establishing Time Blocks

Here is how to get started with the time block concept. During weekly planning time, choose your top 3 Most Important Tasks for the week. These are tasks that are required to be done, and may not be urgent and are important.  Project forward to see if any responsibilities are elevated to this level.  At home this might be personal taxes, upcoming travel, bill paying or administrative time. At work this might be upcoming reports, meetings, or any assigned project.

Set time blocks for the duration that works well for you. As you know about your best work, choose a block of 1 hour or 2 hours, or a specific day of the week. People with ADHD tend to like longer time blocks for 2-3 hours. For me, I like one hour blocks because my energy moves quickly in this time. I use several blocks over a week to complete my tasks. I am a morning person so my best work is in the morning.

Assign a task or project to your chosen block periods.

  • I also refer to this as a “power period” which is a time of single, intense focus for working on or completing a project.
  • Set aside a day to do a single focus (Money Monday, Marketing Monday, Training Tuesday)
  • Assign highest priorities with the best time block depending on what time of day you work best.
  • You may need to assign multiple blocks for completion of your task or project.
  • Set up your team to work with you too on these projects. Communicate your new strategy and coordinate working together to benefit from collaboration.

Work and home successes leads this strategic use of time.

Routines and time blocks

At home and at work there are necessary routines that need attention every week. Here are my favorite time blocks that are common at home and work.

  • Home: Paper management, Finances and Bills, and Family Meeting
  • Work: Email, Administrative, Financial, and Client

Check to see what is not being accomplished in a week and schedule a time block for this. By time blocking these priorities, you will have a greater sense of control and foundation.

 

Scheduling time blocks is the answer to your distracted, unproductive day. It helps you accomplish your goals and keep on target. Filling in when to accomplish a task means you are not at the mercy of decision making and paralysis. It’s the best solution for assigning your time and attention to your priorities.

 

COVID-19 Four Essential Tips for Work From Home Success

 

With COVID-19 we are quickly navigating a new normal, that of working from home during a global crisis. It is not the same as working at home over the long haul or working from home during a traditional time.  There are 4 essential tips to ensure your success as you continue to work, home school and more in the same space daily. Follow these tips to keep your sanity and work success.

 

Start with great self care

The pandemic requires a lot of emotional and physical well being.  Start prioritizing self care.  That means creating an environment that supports you and your family.

  • Create a night time and bed time routine to support rest.  In times of transition, we rely on routines to help us. A productive day starts the night before.  End work in order to have dinner together, spend time together, and get in bed for 8  hours of rest.
  • Include time outside in your work and school routines. A family walk or bike ride in the middle of the day helps everyone clear their head and get re-energized.
  • Boundaries are necessary with social media.  It’s tempting to spend time checking social media when you are feeling drained and unsure of your next priority. Help everyone, most especially your teens, by modeling and setting expectations.

 

Set up your space

By now you have been spending time at home adjusting to your new space. You know what is not working for you and your homeschooling.

  • Declutter and create space in your office to do real work. It’s a reality check to clear out what is unnecessary and edit your stuff. You will be glad you did!
  • Set up multiple spaces for your kids to work.  It can be unconventional like a hammock in the back yard or a make shift tent in a family room. Separate spaces are great for everyone to work without distractions. It also gives everyone a little space to decompress and focus in on work.
  • Video meetings are a requirement of work and school life right now.  These are the social connections we have during the pandemic too. Think of this area as you video studio.  Be sure you have reviewed best practices for you and your kids at a family meeting.
  • Check in with appropriate attire for your work day. Dress for the meetings as you would in real life unless otherwise noted by your employer.

 

Communication

Over-communication during this transition keeps everyone connected, up to date, and sure of next steps.

  • Discuss work hours with your employer, especially to the start and end of your work day.
  • Clarify expectations about tasks and projects.  Will there be daily check in? How will priorities be discussed? What will be the success metrics? Be sure everyone agrees and has this in writing as well as verbally.
  • Resolve challenges with a phone call. It is easy to misinterpret information and tone with text and email. A phone call makes it easy to clarify what has happened and how to rectify the situation.
  • Create a system for sharing documents. Agree to one online system that everyone can use and share. Use what’s easiest to access and be sure there is password protection.

 

Work life integration

Now let’s add back in the rest of the story – those kiddos are home too.

  • If your kids’ assignments arrive on Monday at 9 am, plan around that time. Allocating time to get the kids started will allow you to work more productively.
  • Share responsibilities and tag team if possible. Parents can share shifts of homeschooling.
  • Manage expectations of yourself and your kids’ assignments.  You are all learning resilience as well as math and reading.

 

There is a lot of “life learning”going on at this time. Be aware of nuances in you and your family’s transition to work from home.  It’s a great opportunity to give your family kudos.

 

Work From Home Productivity

 

There are times we can work at home regularly or periodically.  We may need to work at home to help your family activities, work at home to help stabilize finances with your small business, or work during an intense period of upheaval (think virus.) Working at the office or working at home works best when you have processes, policies and organization about your time. By setting up structure,  you are doing your best work.  Here are some ways to establish structure that keeps you on track.

  • Set hours for your office time. During this time, keep clear and established set ground rules for kids, pets and others in  your home.  Your work is your priority during these hours. Post your hours so that those around you know them. This un-distracted time helps you be more productive.
  • Give yourself the opportunity for breaks, including lunch. Take a few minutes for a walk around the block or fresh air with a short break. You will return to your desk ready to tackle anything.
  • Define what derails you.  Distractions can range from kids and pets to doing the laundry.  Its the little things that eat away at your day, so be sure you put the big things in first in your day.
  • Use a planner that shows you time blocks to accomplish priorities.  Having a time in the morning and afternoon with focused, big blocks for power periods helps you knock off the big projects in small manageable pieces.
  • Set up an established work space.  Working at home it’s easy to spread out in all sorts of spaces.  Establish where you work and what you need to arrange around you to work efficiently.  If you need paper, think about using a file cart for your paper management. If you are completely digital, keep your cords organized.
  • Define your work every day with a list and prioritizing.  Using the 3+3 method where you list 3 urgent items for the day and 3 bonus items can help you focus. Your list can be categorized by urgent, soon or later to keep your priorities uppermost.  Set a time for weekly planning to keep all your items on a list and assign deadlines too.    Ask yourself is this activity helping me reach my goal every day?
  • Use technology to stay connected. There is Join.me, Zoom and Free Conference Call to “see” your colleagues in real life.  Just seeing a face and reading body language will help you feel more connected that a phone call.

 

Setting up for success when you work at home makes your work more productive!

 

 

Crafting calendaring habits that will change your life

Calendar and planner

 

Truly crafting calendar habits can change your life.  Calendars and planners are our road map to fulfill our goals and intentions. With a plan and tools you use well, your life will be easier, more productive and more rewarding.

Most especially at the start of the year, however all year long, we search for creative solutions to calendaring. There are two parts to this search. The search for the “perfect” tool” and the search for how to put it to use.  This year more of my clients with ADHD are crafting calendaring habits that are changing their lives.

 

How to get started

Get started by finding the right tools.  Know if you are a paper, digital or hybrid planner person.  I am learning that my clients do best with all three styles and a hybrid variation of these styles. In this case, my clients have a large month at a glance view, a week at a glance view, on both paper on a wall and in a medium sized paper planner. My clients use their phone, laptop and other devices to lay this out too.

Typically I have conversations about having one planner and this is not the case here!  While it does add time and focus to maintain these planners, it is valuable because all the view of all the information helps with processing. It gives context to the data.  On a month at a glance you see your information in comparison to other activities. On a week at a glance you know what you must accomplish in the short time span. With a digital version, you create recurring events and routines. While investing in these tools, you are investing in the opportunity to process information and keep all your balls in the air.

 

Routines to get started

Front loading is the way to start. This term means to add all dates and plans right away, as soon as you receive the information. It also means to front load the level of work required on a project. Front loading takes advantage of your natural energy and interest in both your tools and your projects.  Having these dates, projects and information easily accessible creates a foundation.

 

Keeping on keeping on

There are two elements that keep you on track with your new habits. First, keep adding information and dates as soon as you know about them. This information is in text, email, papers, conversations and meetings. It can be easy to lose track of these. Take time each day to record this in your planner.  Second, review your planner each morning and each evening. It is not enough to record and reviewing daily keeps this information top of mind and fresh.  When I learn that your new calendaring habits are failing, the root is often these two parts.

 

A weekly calendar review time keeps you moving forward. Once a week, check in from a big picture and detail view of your planner. This weekly review is familiar to those following GTD.  It is time for mind sweep to capture all ideas to keep your brain working on work and not remembering.  Capture your mind sweep on paper or digitally, then slot in all the information in your planner. Schedule your weekly calendar review at the start of your week or the end of the week.  Planning is what keeps you up to date and on track.

 

The most important element in your life changing calendaring habits is to not give up. Developing new habits takes time. This is a work in progress each week for you to create a pattern with a combination of dates and projects, as well as work-life integration.  Remember if you skip or miss a week, just get right back to your calendar tomorrow or next week.  Your tenacity  will pay off!

 

Check out my ADHD Friendly tips here on YouTube.

Revisiting My 2019 Word of the Year: Shift

 

Word of the year

 

It’s the end of 2019 and I have remembered my Word of the Year through out the year.  (Have you? ) It’s truly been a part of my work, my thoughts and my energy as I shift into new possibilities.

 

Shift: a slight change in emphasis

I have looked at this year as a slight turn in direction.  While working with clients with ADHD has been a focus for the duration of my business, it’s more so this year in learning tools to assist. I am leaning into my work clients with ADHD clients in continuing learning and implementing strategies. What’s new are the many podcasts I have been listening to each day.  I have been taking more NAPO classes centered on this topic.  I love to learn and apply one small action to my work with clients.

 

Shift: change in direction

We shift toward and we shift away in slight changes in direction. Family first and client work has always been the direction of work life integration for me.  As I step into this more fully, I have been mindful of the true joy that our conversations and engagement bring to me.  I have heard the joy in voices of family and clients throughout the year in their big and little wins.  Wins include completing writing a doctoral paper, using a planner as a high schooler, new interests in a variety of sports, getting a garage organized to park a car or move to a new apartment. As I shift away from some of my volunteering experiences, I have created more white space for myself to be present.

 

Shift: next steps

I am contemplating my 2020 word now.  I love all the words that I have used in these past years. How has my Word of the Year made a difference for me?  Holding my word of the year throughout the year has kept me true and on target with intentional, mindful shifts.  It’s been a comfort when a bumpy shift occurs that this year is about a slight change. We can empower change rather than be fearful of change.  This word reminds me that we can make change a powerful agent for ourselves.

 

My list of Words of the Year

Shift 2019

Possibilities 2018

Thrive 2017

Momentum 2016

Fifteen 2015

Flourish 2014

Fabulous2013

 

 

Successful Team Building for your Micro or Small Business

 

successful team building for your business

 

Solopreneurs and small business owners are challenged with getting everything and anything done.  Their productivity hinges on their strengths. We can’t be good at everything!  Having a team approach to productivity makes for success.

 

  • It’s a big daunting how to start building your team.  What’s most critical is defining what your team member(s) will do.  It’s a range of possibilities.  Start with what’s not being done or what you hate to do.  Flush out a system with your new team member to create a process that works.

 

  • There are levels of delegation that make this transition easier.  Start with specific, direct actions and raise the bar to collaborating on decisions.

 

Here are some sample models that have worked for my clients. I have listed the challenges faced and how a team member made the challenge happen.

 

Calling back clients

Client leads were piling up for a small business owner.  She did not have time to return calls, discuss opportunities, or make appointments.  She was in search of a team player who could help her. Where she found help was in a recently graduated long time friend. Together they set up a process for intake.  They practiced this system for a week and added in an online calendaring system.  It was a combination of the human touch and technology that made for a successful team.

 

Reconciling and creating expense reports

All those little receipts that are needed for reconciling and creating expense reports can be overwhelming and disorganized.  Getting help with routine administrative and financial tasks can help your business thrive.  After tasking this job with several different team members, a small business entrepreneur found a single outsource option. By taking a photo, she was able to send receipts to the outsource person.  After that, the business owner met weekly for a check in about the expense report.  Reports were turned in timely and the business owner was thrilled.

 

 

Billing clients

Another small business owner created a successful strategy for billing clients with technology and a team member. Using FreshBooks, the owner tasked only billing to her team member.  With automation, the client could pay online which also eliminated extra steps with banking.  A small addition of technology can pave the way.

 

Setting up a structure for teams

It’s not intuitive for small business owners to set up a structure for team work or communication.  When he started with a new company, the small business owner turned to his trusted entrepreneur guide to help him. This guide established a weekly meeting for the team, created working hours for each team member, and set up a collaborative document for them to share work.  Having a trust guide to delegate to, the small business owner could focus on his most important big picture work.

 

A highly organized business person turned her calendar over to her virtual assistant.  They collaborated through a series of google docs, email, and online calendar.  The calendar was also shared with another team member.  Having a process in place created a team calendar that worked well for getting all the details completed.

 

Finding a productive environment

A small business person struggled with how to be productive in her office. It seemed a little too noisy at the same time.  She invited her assistant to work with her on a routine basis, weekly, while she worked on a project. They worked as a body double, paralleling their work on separate projects. Having a second person in the room helped her be accountable to her own work.

 

Each of these examples of successful team building worked from resourceful, creative and committed collaborations.  Creating an effective process by everyone bringing their best efforts, strengths and skills make successful teams possible.

 

On Demand Delegating

on demand delegation

 

Do you often with you had 25 hours in the day, 6 hands or could clone yourself?  It’s often that we are faced with more to do than we have time, skills, resources or energy.  Delegating is a solution for you!  With so many resources on the internet, there’s lots of options to delegate on demand.  Technology offers many options with tools of many kinds.  With all our daily tasks, using delegation can add time to you day.

Successful delegation

What are the keys to successfully delegating? Use your strengths wisely and know where you don’t have skill. Delegate when you have a small incremental task that you especially dislike and do not do well.  It’s also good to delegate when you are not your best at consistency or routines.  You can take advantage of automation for this reason.

Delegate bill paying

Online bill pay is the most frequently used system for delegating. Paying from your bank allows you to use one, consolidated online location for payment.

 

Delegate passwords

In the complex world we live in, everything has a password. Online security is most important. It’s also frustrating as we attempt to access our accounts.  Using a secure password is critical for your safety. While there are many data breaches going on, an online password keeper gives you access to your passwords from any device. Choose one password to access your password keeper.

 

Delegate your To Do List

There are many apps to capture your ideas. There are many Artificial Intelligence capture tools in our world.  The easist to use is your iphone Siri. Siri can capture your thoughts verbally and add them to lists and dates for you.  Next easiest is Google Home and Alexa.  No more worries about forgetting and working memory with these devices.

 

Delegate adminstrative tasks

Administrative tasks, including forms, filing, and more, can often fall to the bottom of your list.  There’s help with online virtual assistants who are skilled at scheduling, research, expenses and data entry (to name just a few areas). Assess what your needs are and connect one of these many options.

 

Delegate errands and tasks

Online grocery and other shopping is just a click away now. Delivery can be set up with your specific schedule. Amazon will deliver supplies with a schedule through the subscription services.  No more running out of toilet paper or paper towels now! With a Subscription List, you have a supply that arrives without fail. Making dinner is much easier with an online grocer list. Repeat the list weekly on the same day to be sure you always have milk at home.

 

More tips here on Productivity! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Craft Your Hybrid Productivity Strategy

How to craft your hybrid productivity strategy

 

If you google productivity, millions of pages appear. Listed are strategies that give you systems and processes for your productivity based on that author’s experiences. What stands out to me is that while I appreciate each of these approaches and systems, it’s really about reviewing what has worked for me and the hybrid system I created to fit my personal approach.

 

To improve productivity, start reviewing your work processes.

We are surveyed all the time, when we purchase online and when we go to the doctor. What about  a review of your work processes? What do you give high marks and what needs improvement?

Here’s questions to ask yourself?

  • What time of day do I work best?
  • What’s the best tool I use to capture information?
  • What’s my best modality (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, intuitive, cognitive) to capture and create information?
  • When do I organize my week?
  • What do I use to organize my week?

Asking yourself these questions helps you refine your system and ensures that your tools work for you.

 

To improve your work processes, think big.

There are tons of productivity methods available. A productivity process give you agility in capturing, managing and executing commitments, communications, and information at a specific time. Here’s a round up of options.

Getting Things Done (GTD): GTD is a method for organizing your to-dos, priorities, and your schedule in a way that makes them all manageable.

The SMART Method: Setting SMART Goals to help you prioritize. 

Timeboxing: Converting from a to-do list (daily work plan) to a calendar system

Personal Kanban: Simple system for creating products based on continuous deliveries.

Pomodoro Technique: An alternating series of 25-minute “Pomodoro habit” sessions can help you quickly complete tasks and get things done in a streamlined fashion

Free to Focus: A system to achieve more by doing less

Does one of these mesh with your existing system? Would one of these add to your system or simplify your system? Is there one small step you can change for your system? It’s likely that either simplifying or adding one small step is all the changes you will need or want to make immediately. That’s why I refer to our systems as hybrids, in that we take what works already that we created an add in a mix of other strategies.

 

To improve your work processes, make your routines solid then find the best tools to enhance.

We’re often to quick to think, there’s an app for that! And there may be an app or other product that will help us be more productive. It’s in spending time with completely syncing your process that’s the most important step before finding the tool.

 

Here’s what works for me. I have the master list written by category. I add to my master list all the time, from work spreadsheets, work appointments, family activities, email, and text.  The paper list is at the top of my planner pad.  Weekly I check the lists and add tasks to days of the week. Throughout the year I have added important milestones and appointments. All these appointments work together, including delegating, automating and setting time aside for family.  In my process I have combined GTD, Timeboxing and Free to Focus.  See what works for you now and how to improve on your system.

 

More productivity posts here!

Spring Organizing Office Edition

 

Spring organizing office

 

Offices and office spaces continual to evolve as more of our work becomes digital.  There’s lot of digital decluttering to do as a result.  This Spring more your office forward to become more electronically  organized.

 

Edit first

All offices are busy and it’s a low priority to eliminate digital clutter.  Start a 15 minute daily edit of digital clutter.  Look first at email, then documents.  In multiple 15 minute time slots you can pare down what is not needed. Now assess your duplicate documents and drafts. You can add these to trash to clear space and clear up confusion of the final document.

 

Attend to your desk top

We’re talking computer desk top here!  Add documents into folders and eliminiate any extra icons. There’s clarity here now.  Add a beautiful and serene screen saver for you to see when you are disconnected.

 

Graphics organizing

If you are a social media maven, it’s your graphics that can also need refreshing.  Use a content driven organizing system.  Group your graphics and photos by topic in your pictures to easily access and use your items.

 

Unsubscribe to unwanted

You may have once wanted to learn about a topic, and now you are saturated with email subscriptions. Take 15 minutes to unsubscribe rather than delete your unwanted subscriptions.  Less incominng newsletters free up time.  If you don’t want to let go of these, or incoming coupons, create an additional email account to directly access this when wanted.

 

Update your passwords

We change our passwords, hoping to remember then each time.  Update your password keeper in order to easily log on.  Change passwords if it’s been a while for sensitive sites.  Now log in on all your devices so that you have access from your smart phone or tablet.

 

Control the cords

Technology advances quickly.  It’s time to recycle your older devices and cords. Gather these together with the cords to donate.  Label the remaining cords to know what goes together. Store the cords at point of use in a drawer if used frequently or in a box under a cabinet if not.

Now you and your office are ready for a productive Spring!

 

 

 

Still cluttered in there with paper?  Here’s where to get started!

 

 

How Goals, Calendar and Schedule Alignment Work for You

How goals, calendars and schedule alignment works for you

 

Tire alignment, also known as wheel alignment, can help your tires perform properly and help them last longer. It can also improve handling and keep your vehicle from pulling in one direction or vibrating strangely.  

 

It’s clear that tire alignment helps you save money and time.  How might alignment work for us when we are talking about productivity?  When your goals, calendar and schedule are aligned, it helps you with your performance.  That performance is getting tasks and projects completed with less stress and more joy.  When your life is in alignment, you are feeling the bonus of work life integration.  Just how do we accomplish alignment when our life seems out of kilter?

 

Check your goals first

Review your current calendar to align your goals and your actions. Is what’s on your current calender reflecting your annual or quarterly goals?  Do you see a direct connection to what your responsibilities are each month and week?  Are there times for self care and relationship building?  Knowing how close you are already to alignment will be a guidepost for you.

Write out your best week

As you look over your calendar, you may be dismayed to see disjointed and disconnected dates and activities.  Take a whole new look at your week with a best week calendar. Michael Hyatt refers to this as your “ideal week.”  This is setting yourself up for success to know what this looks like.  With a blank calendar start with filling in what are your priorities.  Parallel your plans with consistent routines for similar activities.  That would be exercising every morning at 6 am, working with clients starting every day at 10 am, and hosting meetings at 2 pm.  See what new awareness comes from this exercise.

It’s going to take time to get your best week aligned with your current week so start small. What tweaks can you put in place?  Where are there options to create alignment? What if you have no control over your goals, deadlines or tasks?  Here’s where to talk to your team and seek out solutions together.

 

Keep aware of where alignment can occur

Changes are naturally occurring on a regular basis. A client ends, a new project starts, or a new boss comes on the scene.  When you seek improved alignment, that’s when you take advantage of a shift.   Look for where new possibilities are happening. Let’s say your 10 am Monday meeting shifts to 2 pm on Tuesday.  Now you can place your high quality work on Monday mornings instead.  Another option is to schedule shorter more frequent meetings at a lower energy time.

 

Is perfect alignment possible?

There is not necessarily that you are seeking perfect alignment as there are changes occuring regularly. What you are working toward is every improving alignment for yourself. There’s also random tasks, especially administrative tasks, that are part of your week.   If you can batch adminstrative tasks to be more productive about these.

 

Remember that for tire alignment, a periodic check is required.  Use your Strategic Planning to continually assess your goals, and then assess your alignment. What you will find as the most powerful benefit is that you are feeling more on top of your goals as a result.