4 Foundations for Productivity

 

4 foundations for productivity

 

Set yourself up for maximizing your productivity. There are foundational aspects that create the structure to maximize your time and prioritize the tasks.  These include tools and strategies that create a basis for doing your best work.   Here’s the 4 ways to create a foundation for exceptional productivity.

 

Capture all together

If you have post it notes, random scraps, several notebooks and a lot in your head, it’s likely you need a specific capture tool and a capture time.  A capture tool is where all your projects, tasks and ideas are recorded.  It’s tempting to keep it all in your head however it’s not effective.  Decide what’s the best, paper, digital or a hybrid, to capture these elements.

Capture time is the time you are recording.  There’s many ways that can work for you. ASAP is a great strategy, as well as at the beginning and end of the day. Capture by notes, with a voice activated device, or any means that makes this easy. A capture time once a week, with a high level of view of your work, keeps tasks from being overlooked.  I call this weekly planning time.

 

Assessing time

Determining how much time a task or project takes can be the biggest challenge to productivity. It takes practice with the same tasks as well as a knowledge of your strengths and skills.  Break your task into the simplest step and give this your best guess. Then multiply that time by three.  Time yourself as you complete the task and review your success.

 

Assign work times

Completing a project on time, whether it’s taxes or client work, is a true test of productivity. Look at how you structured your weeks, months and quarters. Be sure to schedule chunks of time to work or give yourself an entire day to complete your tasks.  Either way, you know that you can be sure to finish for your deadline.  Remember,  a task that has no time assigned on a calendar is not a task. It’s a wish!

Control the distractions after your assigned work periods.  That’s dificult and necessary.  Those distractions indicate you have lost momentum and energy.  If you find yourself scrolling through Facebook instead of working, take a break, get a drink of water or move your work time to another time of day.

 

Match work and energy

Work when you work best.  Use your lower energy time for when you do less important work. Know your chronotype to do your best work. If you are morning person, get to work on the important stuff first before checking email.  Come back around to work again after dinner if you have an energy spurt. bove all, the best foundation to productivity is rest and rejuvenation. Time away from work, time being creative and time to sit all contribute to being more effective.

 

The best foundation for productivity includes a plan.  Plan for planning time, however your plan should not be too specific and too detailed.  Your plan should be a work flow, incorporating some routines that keep your productivity high.  Complicated, hour by hour planning can be too much to accomplish.

 

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Your Command Center for Papers

 

Your command center

 

desk top sorter acrylic desk top sorter

 

 

In our busy lives, information and paper come at us from all directions all the time! Where does all this come from? It comes in with the mail, from school or work, or in your purse! These items require immediate action, with dates and times to enter on our calendar, bills to pay, or addresses or service providers we may need later. The Command Center is a space for information and paper that needs easy access and quick retrieval.  Keep organized with a command center for paper.

Command Center location

Our first decision is where best to create the space for this work zone. Where do you see these papers? In most homes, it is the kitchen since it is the hub of your home.  In the office it is on your desk or on your credenza.  However, if your home office is on the first floor and in a central part of your home, this is a great space to establish this area. Your command center for paper must be located where it’s most valuable.

Setting up your Command Center

Begin by reviewing the current clutter that’s on your desk or counter. Start by deciding what to keep and what to toss. Be decisive! This ensures keeping only what you need.

Continue by sorting your papers into the categories that work for you. Most people need these categories: to do, to pay, to scan, pending, and to file. Other categories include the names of each of your children and partner, weekly activities, other school and organizations’ papers.  At work these categories include your assistant, your boss, hot projects and resources.

 

Choosing your container

Now that you have categories, decide what organizing product might assist you best in keeping these papers in order. Look around the space, measure the area for size, and think about your personal organizing style. Look for a desktop file suited to the décor of the space with hanging files to label with each category. You can also use wall pockets, one for each category, if you have h ave vertical space.  Be sure to choose a product you love and this will help you stay organized.

A calendar and bulletin board are a vital tools in this area too!  Add a month at a glance calendar where everyone can record their activities.  Placing it where all the family or your work colleagues can see it helps everyone stay on top of weekly plans.

 

Command Center routines

Designate an administrative time for you to work  on the command center. This routine usually takes just one hour a week, especially if you choose a time you are high energy to get the job done. Write your administrative time in your personal calendar to commit to the time and make yourself accountable to get the job done.

 

 

Creating a family Command Center and a work Command Center makes the difference in keeping information accessible and easy to locate. Find the right space, the right categories, the right products and the right time to make this work for you. You benefit by having balance and peace of mind!

 

 

Want more ideas on a command center for papers?  Visit my pinterest board Command Centers for Communication and Cohesiveness.

 

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How to Prioritize the Most Important Task

Prioritizing

 

Prioritizing. It’s one of the hardest aspects of time management.  You set aside time to get important work done, and now what to do?  Here are 5 ways of determining what to do first when you are ready to get to work.

 

One thing

If you could choose just one thing that makes the biggest difference in your day at home or work, what would that be? That’s the essence of prioritizing and knowing the one thing that you can do each day. On the opposite hand, what is the one thing that if you did NOT do it, that your day would go awry?  Either perspective helps you prioritize what to choose that is the most important part of your work.

 

Getting Things Done (GTD) lists

GTD starts with a mind sweep and writing everything down. You divide the list into current projects and someday/maybe projects.  Then your list is grouped by the places you work will be accomplished. That can be at the computer, at a meeting, anywhere and errands.  Finally you add the single next step to each of these actions.  GTD helps you prioritize by knowing where you do your work and knowing the one next step to accomplish that task or project.

 

Mindmapping

For non-linear thinkers, here’s a way to find your priority.  There’s not always a start or end, it’s a context within the work itself.  A mind map helps you write down ideas, link tasks that support that goal and then prioritize. By creating a context of what work needs to be accomplished and knowing the many different directions that are possible, you can focus on where you are in the task and project.

 

The Painted Picture

Getting things done is not the same as getting the right things done. To do this, Brian Scudamore  uses his “Painted Picture” strategy.  Keep the big picture in mind with the top third of your capture tool, then below add quadrants for quarterly, monthly and weekly.  Select just 3 tactics that align with this goal and your projects are outlined for completion.

 

Choose the one thing you never get started

Intuitively you know what to do and you never get to it. That’s the priority for you.  It’s when you have procrastinated and let tasks lapse, you know it’s time to get started.

 

How to accomplish prioritizing also depends on setting up your weekly routines to follow through.   Set up a weekly planning time to establish a big picture view that allows you to establish priorities.  That weekly planning time also gives you the opportunity to match your weekly tactics with your calendar.

 

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How to Create More Work Life Integration

 

Work life integration

 

It’s often said no one wished they had worked more.  Living the life you imagine is about working smarter, playing harder and being with those who are most important.   As we assess just how to accomplish this, we seek solutions to creating more work life integration on a consistent basis.

 

Dig deep: prioritize what is a part of work and life

To start with, you have to cull priorities.  Everything just can’t be equally important. We can have times where priorities alternate, what I call “seasons”.  For each part of the year these priorities can change.  Most likely fall is about getting back to work and routines. Spring is about lightening up your work schedule. Summer is about having fun.  As we seek out priorities for our lives, keep these to your top 3.  That sounds small and insignificant, however it’s what can be accomplished.

 

Engage in weekly planning time

That endless list running in your head? It’s time to capture it and calendar it. Your list and your calendar are your best friends for truly engaging productively.  Meet with yourself on Sunday afternoon to Integrate all the work and life activities for the week.  It’s a well spent hour to assign realistically what you can accomplish.

Set boundaries into motion

Wow, it’s hard to set boundaries and keep them! These intentional boundaries include non-negotiable times that keep your work life in balance.  It’s getting to the gym routinely, setting times to gather with your family, and getting a good night’s rest regularly.

Here’s where interference plays a roll.  Set up boundaries for technology. That’s no tech in the bedroom, after 10 pm or at the dinner table. That rule applies to us all including parents.

 

Set aside time for fun

Fun is not going to happen accidentally in our busy lives.  Setting aside time for fun, game night with your kids, a Sunday bike ride, or knitting a scarf, are all what we can use weekly.  Laughing brings out some of our best qualities and feelings.

Repeat

Work life integration is far from a one and done activity. It’s a daily pursuit.  Give yourself the opportunity to feel good and do well at keeping important personal priorities aligned. It’s always a work in progress. That’s when you know that you are achieving work life integration.

How to End your Work Day Productively

How to end your work day

 

It’s well past 6 pm and your family is waiting for you. Your paper and digital inboxes are still overflowing.  You don’t feel like you have accomplished your goals for the day.  It’s time to close down and rejuvenate for the next day. Take the last 30 minutes of your day to successfully end your work day.

 

End your day with a mind sweep

Be true to your productivity plan with a mind sweep at the end of the day. Much information has come in so capture it.  By keeping it in a trust spot like your paper or digital tool, you know you can come back to it with a fresh perspective, place it in a time line, and work with others.  With the fatigue of the end of the day, giving ideas a holding spot help you.

 

End your day with your Most Important Tasks

Jump start and front load tomorrow with your 3 Most Important Tasks.  It’s a head start to the work of tomorrow.  Not sure what the 3 MITs for tomorrow are you? Write down where you are leaving off in a project you worked on today.

 

End your work day with by freshening up your environment

Freshen up your desk, computer and work space at the end of the day. Not unlike an artist, even though you are returning to this spot tomorrow to continue, a cleared desk brings you a blank canvas.  It’s sort of what our parents always reminded us, to pick up and put away at the end of the day.  If doubt this, try it for a week. It’s like making your bed.

 

Creative ways to end your day

  • Set an alarm with a special sound or music to herald the end of the work day.
  • End your day an hour earlier to pack your work into a smaller time frame. Your work expands to fit the time you give it. Give your work less time and give yourself more time.
  • Travel by public transportation and give yourself a deadline to get on that bus or train.
  • Give yourself a reward as you return home. Listen to an audio book, podcast or music you love.

 

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How to Start your Work Day

How to start your work day

 

It’s 9 am and time to get to work!  You grab your planner, you sit at your computer and you start your work.  Not quite!  Not surprisingly it often takes a warm up of sorts to get started. A warm up prepares you to do the work you intend.  It’s not only motivation. It’s also at times physical and cognitive acts that prepare us to do our best work.  What does that look like to warm up?  Here’s some possibilities of how to start your work day.

 

Self care start to your day

With so many possibilities, perhaps a self care warm up will suit your need to clear your mind and focus on work.  There’s several ways the self care focus appears to us.  Many of my clients start their days with meditation.   Spending time in meditation offers the benefits of lowered stress, greater focus and clarity.  Another choice is a spiritual start to your day, including a bible reading or prayer time. Getting in touch with God helps us align our thoughts with our spirituality.  A physical self care warm up incudes drinking a glass of water, taking any medications, exercising, and eating protein.  Your self care warm up might be also called your routine for starting your day.

 

List making start to your day

As part of the strategy of Getting Things Done (GTD), there’s always a mind sweep.  It’s how we clear our thoughts and capture them.  A list is a great way to start your day and clear your mind to prepare to start real work.  Simply writing down all your thoughts in a capture tool either paper or digital helps give you clarity.

Now what about all those thoughts and ideas?  This is when we must prioritize.  We can’t and should not do everything on the list.  It’s our priorities that rise to the top for our work.  I call these Most Important Tasks (MITs).  If you want to start your work quickly the next day, write out your MITs at the close of your work day in preparation for the next day’s work.

 

Verbal processing to start your day

Team up with a partner for a short conversation to start your day.  Many of us are verbal processors, meaning that in talking through a thought we can become clear on next steps.  It’s also a great tool to remind us where we are, what our thoughts are, and our current task.    A short team meeting can help you start your work day with priorities.

 

Creative ways to start your day

In my conversations with clients, here’s a list of ways they have decided to start their work day.

  • Start your day by drawing or writing on a white board.  A mind map, a picture or an icon can be the visual start for your work day.  Use this big space to be creative and connect your thoughts.
  • A quick morning shower where ideas percolate.  Capture your ideas with a waterproof voice recorder.
  • Don’t hold back. Start. Then assess after the first hour what you have accomplished from yesterday’s list.
  • Do the babiest of baby steps to a big goal.  Chunk your list into manageable steps over the time of a week.
  • Create a metric. Determine a measure of what you want to accomplish in a certain amount of time.

 

Once you know how to start your work day, create a daily routine that empowers this.  Write it down, share it with your colleagues, and tweak it as you work.

 

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In honor of Get Organized (and Be Productive) Month

2019 goals

 

January is our National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals Get Organized and Be Productive Month! It’s when we as professionals share tips, tricks and tech for you to gain momentum all year long.

 

This month I am introducing a weekly series to be more productive. Follow along each week as I share routines that make your life easier, smoother, more organized and more productive! Take just one tip and use it consistently to make this your most organized and productive year every!

Keeping Extra Organized and Productive throughout the Holiday Season

 


 

Holidays add extra to our lives.  Whether it’s extra fun, extra work, or extra time,  there’s much more to think about and do.  When you are running on extra everything, keeping extra organized and productive this holiday season are critical.

 

Extra rest

We don’t think of extra rest at this time of year.  How can you add extra rest with an earlier bedtime?  Perhaps it’s an extra nap that is needed?  Think first of how to add extra rejuvenation to your week.

 

Extra help

It’s as simple as buying the cookie tray rather than making a dozen cookies.  Get extra help this season in any way you can, from food prep, home cleaning and extra hugs.   You will appreciate having this bonus.

 

Extra planning time

Schedules get criss-crossed this time of year.  There are multiple simultaneous events.  Be sure you double and triple check your plans and planner.  You will be happy to know what is planned by capturing it on your device or on paper.

 

Extra spiritual time

Holidays are about a greater meaning.  Keep the joy of the season in more than sprit by devoting time to devotion.   That can be reading, prayer, or meditation time for you as you seek the meaning of this time of year.

 

Extra work scheduling

The end of the year may be a big wrap up time for projects.  Schedule extra time to do a solid wrap up of what you have worked on this year.  Take extra time to let go of extra drafts and extra paper.

 

Wishing you EXTRA joy this holiday season!

More Elves Please!

 

More elves please build a team

 

 

It’s the holidays that remind us of how much we need to have more help!  Just like Santa’s elves, and Mrs. Claus, there’s more to do than we have time to accomplish.  Look at what needs to be done and perhaps it’s time to build a team for the holidays.  Here’s some ideas on where to find elves not just at this time of year. It’s a prelude to building a bigger team all year long.

 

There’s some resistance to building a bigger team. If you are not sure what to start with, start with something super small.  You can delegate with supervision this way.  Or you can start with something you know you are not getting to.  If progress is made, that’s the bonus.

 

Retail elves

Services such as Shipt, Click, Target cartwheel and Amazon subscription are a start.   You can connect online to order and your goods come directly to your home.  Subscription automates this process for goods that you rely on regularly.  Not only does this save time, it saves money!

 

Tech elves

Every day new technology is being created to help us.  Amazon Alexa and Google Home have tons of tech tricks to help you day in and day out. Not only can Alexa play holiday music, she can also read “The Night Before Christmas”.   She can organize your holiday lists and remind you before your holiday cookies get too crispy.  Holiday cards are a special connection during the holiday season.  Send out beautiful invitations and holiday cards using PaperlessPost.  Holiday tech can help you delegate and automate.  

 

Community elves

Around us are people who have retired and want to do more, teens looking to earn money and freelancers.  A colleague posted an advertisement on Next Door and got 50 potential elves.  A retired tech guy talked to a friend of a friend and became a driver for a special needs family.  Mention to the universe the help you need and it’s going to show up.

 

Professional elves

That’s people like me! As your certifed professional organizer, I help people in many different ways depending on your needs, skills and goals.  Professional elves, like coaches, therapists, trainers and more help you achieve goals throughout the year.

 

Once you have your team in place, it’s important to keep communicating frequently. A weekly meeting, a text stream and a google doc can keep everyone up to date and on the same page.  Build a team for the holidays and going into the new year to help you accomplish more, feel more in control and keep all your plates spinning.

 

More ideas for team building and managing your team here!

Automated Tools for Home, Work and Life

Automated tools for home work and life

 

Without a doubt, technology has changed our home, work and life. The smart tools in our home include security, light bulbs, coffee makers and fans. In the last year, even more so has life changed with the popularity of Amazon Echo (Alexa) and Google Home. It’s easy to automate and delegate some of the little things that can make life and work even easier. Here’s a list of the tools and tasks that can delight you as automated toolsfor home, work and life.

 

Tools to use

Both the Amazon Echo and Google Home are easy to use and cost about the same amount depending on which product you purchase.  Here’s the differences that you should look for.  Amazon Echo has more commands (Skills) while Google Home can best answer diverse questions.   Amazon Echo has more smart home commands to control such as smart light bulbs or security.

 

Commands to use

These devices can play music, tell you the time, give you this week’s weather and give you the traffice report.  There’s more though! Keep up your productivity with these commands.

Calendar

  • OK, Google, tell me about my day”
  • OK, Google, good morning.” (This includes a personalized greeting, info on weather, traffic, reminders, calendar entries, flight status and curated news stories.)
  • OK, Google, add my 9 am appointment to my calendar.
  • Ok, Google, remind me to purchase my airline tickets.

To-do lists

  • Alexa, create a to-do list
  • Alexa, I need to make a doctor appointment
  • Alexa, buy bathroom tissue
  • Alexa, reorder pens
  • Alexa, track my order

Reminders and timers

  • Alexa, set a repeating alarm for weekdays at 7 a.m.
  • Set a timer: “Alexa, timer” or “Alexa, set a timer for 15 minutes.”
  • Create a named timer: “Alexa, set a pizza timer for 20 minutes.”
  • Set multiple timers: “Alexa, set a second timer for 5 minute

Self care

  • Alexa, ask Random Workout to pick a workout.
  • Alexa, ask Random Workout to pick an exercise.
  • Alexa open Sleep Sounds.
  • Alexa ask Sleep Sounds to play Thunderstorm.

What’s my most surprising task for Alexa? It’s remember things! We all want a fail safe spot to remember stuff.  Alexa can do that too!

You don’t have to be a big techie to enjoy the advantages of this small addition to your tech collection.  Adding these small devices can make a big difference for you as we add automated tools for home, work and life to our everyday spaces.