I Forgot My Phone… And I Survived

I Forgot My Phone… And I Survived

This morning I was up, ready and out on time. I was feeling good and confident despite the drizzly weather. Then, I realized I forgot my phone. Oh no. Panic set in. My heart-beat picked up and I tried to think through if I had enough time to go back. I didn’t.

Right then, I realized how silly my reaction was and decided I was going to see how I fared without it. I can do it. The first few minutes were still full of angst as I wondered about any missed calls or texts that would be waiting for me. I thought about being completely unreachable and about not being able to reach out. But, I pushed on determined to somehow make it through the day.

Thinking through the rest of my day, I realized I didn’t have my calendar. I would have to go from memory until I could get to my computer. In thinking through the day, I wondered about the rain and reached for my phone to check the weather. Nothing there. I would just have to plan for the worst case and prepare for rain.

At my first meeting, I got a new to-do and reached again for my phone to add the task to my to-do list. Ugh. Again, no phone. Oh well. I will have to try and remember it and then remember to add it to my list later.

For the first few hours, I found myself feeling restless and feeling for my phone in my back pocket. I am not really sure why. I knew it wasn’t there but I was doing it just out of habit. I realized that I really didn’t even have a reason to reach out for it but would do so anyway.

I was talking to someone who asked a question I couldn’t answer but I knew who would know. I instinctively reached for my phone to send a quick text to find out. But, without my phone, I instead continued with my conversation and honestly staying focused instead of being distracted proved to be quite enjoyable. I also recognized that I didn’t have to send the text right then. I could do it later.

Without my phone, I didn’t check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn but I also didn’t miss out on any big news or event either. While my email messages certainly piled up, going through them at one point later in the day wasn’t as overwhelming or as time-consuming as I had imagined. In fact, as the productivity experts claim, it was certainly a lot more efficient to do it all at once instead of checking it constantly throughout the day. If only I could stick to this every day.

As the day went on, the less I missed my phone and the less I reached for it. I finally relaxed and felt at ease. I could do everything I really needed to even though I wasn’t able to do all the things that I had wanted to do. Most importantly, I survived the day without any incident or negative impacts.

I hope I forget my phone at home more often.

TRY THIS OUT: You know what I’m going to suggest and I also know you’re shaking your head. So, just think about it. How about putting your phone in the other room for an hour or so? How about taking a walk or attending a meeting without it? Then, try leaving it at home for a longer period of time. How does it feel? Can you survive without it?

Tools You Can Use to Achieve Balance

Tools You Can Use to Achieve Balance

We all seem to constantly seek work-life balance. We often talk about ways of achieving it. We pursue the perfect alignment of work, family, and personal goals but we still struggle with how to achieve it given the set number of hours we have each day. So, is this desire even achievable with the increasing number of things we are trying to get done?

I certainly have not mastered the art of balancing it all – or more accurately, juggling it all. At times, I’ve been so overwhelmed I haven’t even tried to achieve any balance in my life. As I’ve gotten older though I am realizing that not making time for myself and my health and well-being for the long-term to focus on short-term to-dos really isn’t in my best interests. Or, for that matter, for any of the people around me.

YOUR TO-DO LIST

So, this past year, I adopted a few techniques to help me prioritize family and personal tasks above all the work tasks. To begin with, in my task management app, I have categorized my tasks by Work, Family and Personal and I now try to make sure there are always a few things in the Personal section. On the weekends, I prioritize the Personal items over the Work items to make sure I’m spending time on me.

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YOUR CALENDAR

Also, in my calendar, I color-code all my meetings and appointments so I can visually see where I am spending my time. I have assigned specific colors for work meetings, family activities, exercise and fun social activities. Of course, there are weeks when one or two colors seem to dominate but, when I have the flexibility, I schedule in more time for family and personal activities. The more colorful my calendar is, the more I know I am doing a better job of balancing my time.

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YOUR FRIENDS

When work tasks get overwhelming, it’s easy to skip some of the personal or family activities. To avoid doing this, I make a habit of scheduling these activities with a friend. It’s much harder to cancel when you’ve coordinated doing something with someone else. This is especially true for me when it comes to walking or exercising or going out for lunch or dinner. Not only do I make sure I’m making time for relaxing and enjoyable activities for myself, but I get the bonus of connecting and catching up with a friend.

Now, I think I just need to schedule in some down time. What color should that be?

TRY THIS OUT: Look over your to-do list or calendar to assess if you’re able to balance all the different demands on your time. Is there something that’s taking up a lot of your time? Are there things you wish you were doing but don’t show up anywhere? Which of these techniques might be able to help you achieve a little more balance in your life?

 

The Productivity Workout

The Productivity Workout

Want to lose weight? Is your goal to eat healthier? Trying to exercise more regularly? Many of us have goals and desires to live a healthier lifestyle but it’s hard because it doesn’t just happen. In fact, it takes a lot of planning, discipline and time. Becoming more productive isn’t any different.

I often hear people say that they want to get more done. They would like to be more organized and efficient. But they don’t do anything differently. It’s almost as if they feel or hope these things will just somehow miraculously just happen. If only.

Living a healthy lifestyle requires exercising 3-5 times a week, walking 10,000 steps a day, limiting calories to less than 2,000 a day of healthy foods. None of this happens without proactive planning and dedicated time and effort. Similarly, to increase your productivity and efficiency, you need to develop and follow your own productivity workout.

SET GOALS

To get started, you first need to clearly establish your goals. It’s not enough to just say you want to be more organized or productive. You need to be able to openly articulate goals that can be easily tracked and measured. As Yogi Berra famously said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”

TOOLS

To improve your fitness, you may need an exercise coach, workout equipment, healthy recipes, a fitness tracker app and other tools to help you achieve your goals. Without these tools, achieving your goal will be a lot more challenging.

Similarly, you will need certain tools to help you become more productive. First, make sure you have one single calendar you use to schedule your time, including work and personal meetings, appointments and reminders. Also, make sure you establish and maintain a single to-do list to track your tasks. Finally, obtain a journal to keep your notes in one place for easy reference when needed.

DISCIPLINE

Now, you just need a plan to put your workout in action. Begin by scheduling an hour each week in your calendar for planning. During this time, review and confirm your appointments and meetings for the week ahead. Identify big items that need to be done and schedule them into your calendar to ensure they get done. For critically important items, schedule it twice. Be sure to update your to-do list.

Each day, either the night before or at the start of the day, review your list and select your top three priorities for the day. It’s fine for them to change as the day progresses because things come up and you can adjust. Also, feel free to eliminate tasks that don’t necessarily need to be done.

TRY THIS OUT: Find an hour this week and block it off to develop your own productivity workout. First, identify your goals and determine what tools you will need to establish to help you. Schedule time each week for planning and for setting your daily priorities just as you would set aside time to exercise.

Arrive on Time Every Time

Arrive on Time Every Time

This time of year, the kids are heading back to school and everyone’s anxiety seems to increase as the pressure to deal with the madness of the morning rush and arriving to school or work on time returns. How many of us start our mornings with, “Hurry up! We’re going to be late.” With the same morning routine and commute, why is it so hard to be on time?

With all the tools and technologies, we now have, from fancy alarm clocks to GPS apps telling us exactly how long it will take to get to our destination, we really don’t have any excuses to be late. Here are some of the techniques I use to help me be on time.

GRAB AND GO

Make sure you have everything you need to take with you ready to go before it’s time to leave. It’s critical to make sure there’s a place for everything and everything is in its place so you are not hunting for your car keys or looking for lost shoes when it’s time to leave. Find a set place for your keys and create a “mud room” space somewhere for shoes, coats, hats and backpacks. With the kids, I encourage them to gather all of their stuff the night before so they aren’t running around in the morning.

BUFFER TIME

Before you leave, check your map app to see how long it will take to get there and ensure you’re taking the best route. These apps will alert you to traffic issues and will route you around any unforeseen trouble spots. Take the time that is projected and add 20%. For example, if it says it’ll take 10 minutes, give yourself at least 12 minutes to get there. For a 20-minute drive, leave 25 minutes ahead of time.

For meetings, don’t leave your office when the meeting is supposed to begin. Make sure you leave your office with enough time to get to the conference room when the meeting is scheduled to start. If necessary, leave enough time to stop by the restroom or check-in with a co-worker on the way to the meeting.

HAVE A PLAN

If you are going somewhere you haven’t been before, do some research. First, check and review the directions. Find out where to park and how long it may take to walk to your destination from there. Keep the phone number on hand in case you get lost or need more detailed directions.

Don’t worry about being too early. Take the extra few minutes to check email or social media, make a quick phone call or, even better, review and update your to-do list. It’s a great to have some extra time to get something done.

TRY THIS OUT: Next time you are late, think about whether any of these tactics would have helped get you there on time. Next time you’re headed out, give it a try and see if it helps. Better yet, keep at it and when it becomes a routine, you’ll quickly find you’re always there on time!

Don’t Break the Chain

Don’t Break the Chain

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld popularized one of the most important productivity and habit forming techniques when he stated and restated, “Don’t break the chain!” He claimed that his secret to success was to write jokes every day. To ensure that he did so, he kept a big calendar and marked each day with a big red X when he completed writing.

Seinfeld explained, “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

This technique has proven successful for any behavior you want to instill or habit you might want to break. Simply set your goal and mark each day you achieve that goal. As the chain gets longer, you’ll see that you’re automatically motivated to complete the task at hand simply so you don’t break the chain.

I have integrated this technique into my task management app called priorigami. The concept is simple. Each day you select your top three top priority tasks and when you complete all three you are congratulated. The app keeps track of the number of tasks you complete each day noting the goal of three tasks per day. It looks great and feels good to see the chart when you’re hitting your goal each day.

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On the other hand, there are days when you’re just not that productive and you aren’t able to complete three tasks. In those cases, you “break the chain” and as you can see the results aren’t as satisfying or motivating. Looks like you came up a bit short.

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The reason this technique works is that it changes our focus from achieving some big audacious overall goal to the process of completing one simple thing each day. Instead of fixating on becoming a better writer, the focus is on making time to write each day. Or, instead of obsessing on losing 15 pounds, the focus shifts to making time to exercise daily.

Once you get started, you will notice that each day, the task gets easier and simply becomes part of your routine. In fact, research shows it only takes 21 days to create a new habit. So, if you try this and keep at it, in less than a month you will have also formed a new habit.

TRY THIS OUT: Identify something you want to achieve or change. Set a daily goal that can be easily achieved, measured and tracked. Get a calendar and a marker and place it in or near your desk or bathroom mirror where you will see it daily. Mark each day you complete the goal. How does it feel? How many days can you go before breaking the chain?

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?