Productive Packing for Your Next Trip

Productive Packing for Your Next Trip

How many times have you gone on vacation and forgotten something? Happens to my husband all the time. He has forgotten his belt, sunglasses, swimsuit, medications and even his wallet. At this point it’s a family joke and we all try to guess what he might forget on his next trip.

Here are some simple tricks you can use to make sure you remember everything you need so you can enjoy your trip without the worry of forgetting something you will need. For starters, try to begin packing early and don’t wait until the very last minute.

KEEP THE ESSENTIALS

Keep the essentials that you need for every trip in a bag that’s ready to go at any time. Include the necessities including a sewing kit, first aid kit, basic medicines and toiletries. Then it’s a no brainer to quickly grab and pack it whenever you’re heading out on a trip.

VISUALIZE YOUR TRIP

Think through and visualize your trip. Imagine yourself going through each day. What are you doing? What will the weather be like? How many times will you need to change clothes? What gear or accessories will you need? How many nice or casual outfits will you need? Try to picture yourself there and walk through the entire trip in your mind to clearly see what you will need to bring along with you.

MAKE A LIST

About a week before your trip, start making a list of all the things that you will need to take, focusing mostly on the one-off items that you don’t use every day. Good examples are chargers, reading materials, travel documents and loyalty cards and accessories depending on your destination. Also, remember all travel documents and access to travel and reservation confirmations and addresses. Reference this list as you begin packing.

DO A DRY RUN

The day before your trip, pack your toiletries in your travel case and then use it the morning of your trip. Make sure everything you need comes out of your travel bag. By doing this, you will quickly realize if you’ve forgotten something and you can immediately add it to your bag and then you’re good to go. You can extend this practice to include everything you do for your morning routine. If you don’t have the luxury of time for doing this, as you get ready in the morning make sure everything you touch goes directly into your travel bag. 

TRY THIS OUT:  What have you forgotten to pack on previous trips? Would any of these practices have helped you remember that item? Before your next vacation visualize your trip, make a list of the must-haves and make sure you do a dry run the morning of your trip.

How Being Busy Breeds Productivity

How Being Busy Breeds Productivity

Why does it seem that the busiest people get the most done? It’s certainly not just because they are busy. Being busy and being productive are very different things. You can be very busy with all sorts of distractions and time-wasters without getting a single thing done. You can also be very productive taking a long, relaxing walk while solving a very difficult problem that’s been blocking your work. But while they are very different, they do work hand in hand.

I’m sure you have heard Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” I have often wondered why this was the case. Logically, it would seem that the people who aren’t as busy would have the most time and ability to get a task done.

While working in the corporate world, juggling work, home and two very active student athletes, I was often asked to take on one more task and for the most part I would happily take it on and get it done. Interestingly, now that I’m running my own business and my daughter is soon off to college, I find myself having more flexibility and more time and for a fact, I’m not as productive. My to-do list is longer than it ever was and tasks linger on my list for much longer.

Since I have now experienced first-hand the fact that the busiest people indeed are the most productive I have a better understanding of why this is true. Here are a few reasons why busy people get more things done.

THEY HAVE A SYSTEM

Busy people must be organized to keep up with everything they need to do. So, they naturally and routinely use systems to support them including their calendars, to-do lists, notes and communication tools. They have a process and are disciplined in sticking to it so when something new comes up, it simply fits right into their existing processes. There’s a place and priority for everything.

THEY ARE RELIABLE

Busy people deliver on their commitments. They agree to do something and get it done and then in turn, they are asked to take on more. They are asked to do more because they are dependable which in a way ends up being a vicious circle. The more they do successfully, the more they are asked to do. The biggest struggle for busy people is learning to say “No” to tasks that are unimportant or can be delegated to someone else.

THEY DON’T PROCRASTINATE

Busy people don’t have a lot of free time and they know that things always come up at the last minute so when a new task comes up, they try to tackle it as quickly and as soon as possible. To make sure it gets done, they will schedule time to get it done and sometimes they will even schedule a backup time to ensure there’s still extra time to do it. Recurring tasks are scheduled and conducted on a routine schedule for fear of them not getting done in time otherwise. On the other hand, those who aren’t so busy feel like there’s plenty of time to tackle a task later and often it just lingers.

THEY ARE FOCUSED

Because there’s so much to do, busy people recognize that when they are working on a task, they need to focus their full attention on it. They know they need to complete it as efficiently as possible and move on to the next thing. They do not have the luxury of dilly-dallying over a task for any extended period.

TRY THIS OUT:  How busy are you? Look at your busier days and compare them to some of the not so busy days. Do you notice a difference in the level of your productivity?

The Myth of Time Management

The Myth of Time Management

So many of us talk about time management. Countless articles have been written and tools have been created to help us manage our time. There are time management gurus, tutorials and classes. Half of our working day is spent juggling our calendars in a never-ending attempt to “manage our time.”

But, what if we cannot manage time? Consider that this may just be a completely useless exercise. If you think about it, no matter what we do, time will always continue to tick forward. We cannot rewind it and we cannot fast forward it. It just is and just continues according to the plan – each second, every minute, the next hour and then into the next day.

That said, it should be obvious that time itself cannot be managed. I would propose that instead we rethink what we’re trying to “manage” and reorient our focus to the things that we can and do control:  our priorities, energy and attention.

PRIORITIES

Each day we all have more to do than we can handle. We know what needs to get done and we constantly make choices about what’s most important and what needs to be prioritized. Setting clear and deliberate priorities is the single most critical factor driving our productivity and future success. We can and do control how we spend our time even if we cannot control time itself.

ENERGY

We can also decide how to spend our energy. Energy is finite and to optimize output, it’s imperative that we focus our efforts and our energy on the most important priorities. This is harder to do than it seems these days due to the countless distractions that get in our way. So often, we expend more of our energy on the things that are seemingly urgent but not all that important.

ATTENTION

Focus seems to be a lost art especially for me. With countless dings, pings, alerts and notifications, it’s virtually impossible to focus on any one thing for an extended period. I personally struggle with this constantly. Research has shown that multi-tasking is not possible and simply does not work. To be most productive it behooves us to focus our full and complete attention on one task at a time. I have found that the Pomodoro technique works best for me since it forces me to focus for a set amount of time and reward myself with a break.

TRY THIS OUT: Do you spend a lot of time trying to manage your time? Does it work for you? Do you spend any time managing your priorities, energy and attention? If not, pick one and try to focus on it for a day or two. Do you find that you’re more productive?

Crafting the Perfect To-Do List

Crafting the Perfect To-Do List

While researching productivity practices and challenges, I found that approximately 80% of us use some sort of calendar to manage and keep track of our time. We diligently enter in meetings, appointments, birthdays and other reminders. However, surprisingly, I also found that 80% of us do not have any system or methodology for tracking our tasks.

Some of us jot tasks down on a piece of paper but don’t have the list with us when we remember something else that we need to do. So, this list ends up being incomplete. Some use a notebook or try to remember tasks by adding notes or reminders on our phones. Others just hope that somehow it will all just get done.

So, why aren’t we using some sort of system, process or list to manage our tasks? Because most of them just don’t really work and often it becomes more work to maintain the list than to do the tasks. Here’s what you need to do to create a to-do list that will actually help you get things done.

KEEP ONE CENTRAL LIST 

The most critical element in developing a system that will work is to create and maintain all your tasks in one single to-do list. It’s best to keep track of everything you need to do on your Smartphone using the Notes or a task management app so your list is always with you as tasks come up. This makes it much easier to review, prioritize and determine what to tackle when.

PRIORITIZE

Don’t try to get everything done all at once. Many people fail to use to-do lists because they find them to be too overwhelming. While the list should contain everything you need or want to get done, you must prioritize the top three things you need to do each day so it’s more manageable and achievable. Schedule time in your day to focus on completing your top three prioritized tasks.

CLEANSE YOUR LIST

Spend a few minutes each day reviewing your list and updating it. Don’t be afraid to change your priorities during the day as things come up and challenge yourself to delete tasks from your list as well. Often, when a task lingers on your list for several weeks, it’s an indicator that it may not be that important.

CREATE SMALLER TASKS

Make sure to enter tasks that are clear and actionable in a set amount of time. Frequently, people get frustrated with their lists because nothing ever gets done. Make sure your tasks are broken down into each step along the way. For example, instead of adding a to-do to “Plan the party” start with “Set Date for the Party.” Once that’s done, then add “Create Guest List” and “Draft Party Invitation.”

TRY THIS OUT: How are you currently keeping track of your tasks? Are they all listed in one place? If not, start a central list or download a task management app like priorigami? After you get in the habit of keeping all your to-do’s in one list, check back to see how your tasks match up to these recommendations.

Feedback is a Gift

Feedback is a Gift

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know everything about everything. I can’t solve every problem alone and I certainly don’t have all the very best ideas in my mind. The way I have gotten through life is through soliciting feedback, collaborating with others and sharing ideas. Every great idea has come from putting together a variety of good ones together.

It’s easy to give and receive positive feedback which is a great motivator, however, it doesn’t help you get to a better result. By far, the most productive feedback is the constructive feedback which helps improve your deliverable. The fastest way to get to a great result is to put something out there and get real people to share their thoughts on what they love, what doesn’t work well or what may be missing.

How you present your feedback will determine how it is received. There’s no need to be mean or condescending but simply offer alternative ideas or suggestions as additional thoughts or ideas. You could use some of the following to start the conversation:

  • Have you considered…
  • What if you…
  • How about…
  • I wonder if consumers would…
  • This is interesting, how did you come up with…

If you are the one receiving the feedback, the first thing to do is to keep an open mind and listen. No need to get defensive even if they are calling your baby ugly. Seek to understand their ideas and perspectives. Often, I let it sink in for a day or two before I respond. There’s no reason to react immediately. The best response is to thank them for their feedback and that you’ll take some time to thoroughly consider their input.

So, now it’s my turn. I’ve been writing this blog for about a year and I would love to get some feedback. Please email me at monishalongacre@productivity101.biz and let me know your thoughts about this post, the blog, my app or just about anything else that’s on your mind. Let me know about your productivity challenges or tips and tricks. Anything you share will help me get a better understanding of my audience. So, please give me this gift.

TRY THIS OUT: Next time you are writing a report or memo and you just keep reviewing it and re-writing portions, ask someone else to proofread and edit it. It’s putting yourself out there, but you will get to a better result much faster. Stuck on solving a problem? Gather a few people with different experiences or perspectives and hold a brainstorming session. You’ll be amazed at the number of ideas you can gather in less than an hour.

The First Thing Everyday

The First Thing Everyday

I have always made my bed first thing in the morning. I don’t think about it. I just do it and have done so every single day for years. It’s just a natural part of my daily routine. I don’t see it as a chore or a waste of time, but a great way to start the day on a positive note by getting something simple done. I even make my half of the bed if my husband is still sleeping in it.

However, no matter how hard I try, I cannot convince my kids to make their beds, ever! They don’t see any value in it. To them, making the bed is just a waste of time since they’ll get back in it and it’ll just get messed up again. So, why bother?

Well, research reported in Psychology Today shows that “bed makers are happier and more successful than those who don’t.” In 2014, Naval SEAL Admiral McRaven included the following remarks in his commencement address at The University of Texas at Austin:

“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

In my completely informal, unscientific Facebook survey, 66% of my Facebook friends make their beds every morning for exactly these reason. It makes them feel good and gets their day started in the right direction. Many also commented on how it feels good to end the day getting into a made bed.

To make it easier to make your bed each day, you can get rid of the extra pillows and cushions, remove the middle flat sheet or just use a duvet and simply pull it up. Believe it or not there’s now a SMARTduvet that comes with a phone app that will automatically make the bed for you. Not sure that this counts as making your bed, but maybe I should order it for my kids since they would simply push a “Make Bed” button on their smartphone to get their day started on the right foot.

TRY THIS OUT: If you don’t normally make your bed, try it for a few days in a row and see how it impacts your day and how you feel. If you do normally make your bed, try not to for a few days, does it even make a difference?

The Biggest Productivity Problem

The Biggest Productivity Problem

We all do it. We are all guilty no matter how good our intentions. And this one single thing has the biggest negative impact to our productivity every single day. So, what is it?

Not following through or following up.

It’s so easy to say, “I’ll call you tomorrow.” Or, “Let’s meet for lunch.” Sometimes we say, “I’ll send you that article as soon as I get back to my desk.”  Or, “I’ll have that report done by the end of the week.” These promises easily stream from our mouths and then quickly vanish into the air. However, the recipient takes them and holds on to them setting an expectation in their minds.

So, why don’t we follow through on the commitments we make?

First, we just simply forget what we said.

Our brains are full, our bodies are active and our days are busy and sometimes these little promises just fall by the wayside. The smartest thing to do to ensure that you follow up is to write it down. As soon as you make a commitment, no matter how big or small, add it to your to-do list. That way it’ll serve as a little reminder whenever you check your lists.

Second, we don’t mean it.

Too often we just say things, to say things. Some of these statements have become a way of ending a conversation or just a figure of speech. Some of my favorites are:

 “See you tomorrow.” (Well, will you really?)

“Let’s get together.” (Then, set a date and time)

“I’ll be right there.” (Like, now or in 30 mins?)

“I’m almost done.” (Again, tell me how much longer)

Third, we overestimate our ability to deliver.

Sometimes we have all good intentions but we’re unable to keep a commitment. The report took longer than expected. Something may have come up preventing you from finishing it or it just didn’t get done. As soon as you know that you aren’t going to be able to meet a stated commitment, let that person know and re-set their expectations so they can then adjust accordingly. Don’t wait for the day to come and go and for them to have to reach back out to you to find out what’s going on.

TRY THIS OUT: Next time you hear yourself making a commitment, stop, write it down and then come up with a plan to make sure you meet that expectation. Next time someone has to follow up with you on a commitment you made, think through how it got dropped and determine how you can close that gap the next time.