The Value of Being Organized

The Value of Being Organized

Over the years, many of my friends and colleagues have consistently commented that I am so organized. I take pride in this compliment since I do work very hard at being organized. I follow the Two Minute Rule. I make sure there’s a place for everything and everything is in its place. I live by my lists to the point that everyone knows (and even jokes) about them. I even make my bed every day.

Lately I’ve been wondering if this obsession of mine is worthwhile. Does the time spent being organized help me be more productive or is it just a waste of my time? I consider whether the energy spent on organizing would be better spent on getting stuff done. So, I did some research and some soul-searching to dig deeper.

First, one definition of “organized” is: “having one’s affairs in order so as to deal with them efficiently” which implies that there’s an inherent benefit. Second, 1 of out 4 Americans would like to be more organized. Surely, this desire is not just about having everything in the right place but to get more done. Third, when I searched for the benefits of being organized, hundreds of articles popped up listing the countless benefits of being organized from health, to efficiency to style, brand and even your reputation. Finally, I came across this quote from the wise Benjamin Franklin:

“For every minute spent organizing,
an hour is earned.”

All that said, here’s the value I can attribute to the time and energy spent on being organized:

SAVES ME TIME

Because I have a home for everything and I put everything back in its place, I never waste time looking for anything. I also schedule my full day so I don’t wonder what I should do next. I start with my meetings and appointments and then fill in the top priority tasks for the day to make sure I have allocated time to get them done. Very little of my time is time wasted.

MAKES ME MORE RELIABLE

Thanks to my to-do list I very rarely forget things that need to be done. I know that my brain isn’t good for remembering things so I make sure I always write down my tasks. Because I block time on my calendar to complete tasks and to focus on deep work, I never miss a deadline. The combination of my to-do list and my calendar ensures that I meet my commitments and deliver on expectations.

REDUCES MY STRESS

By maintaining a clean house, I don’t have to rush around and clean up before someone comes over. I don’t stress about where things are what needs to get done. I don’t worry about what I might be forgetting or leaving things to the last minute. Because I have a plan in place for the day, when urgent issues arise, as they often do, I can easily adjust and re-set expectations as needed.

THINK ABOUT THIS: How organized are you now? Identify a specific area of your life that feels chaotic. Is there a simple system or routine you could apply to help you become more organized? What would the value be to you to become more organized in that specific area? Is that benefit enough to warrant spending the time being proactive?

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.

The Time Paradox

The Time Paradox

We’ve all heard it and said it ourselves many times: “There just aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done.” And, through my analysis over the past year, I have found that this is indeed the case. Not having enough time is not just a feeling, but an actual reality that we all face every day.

In my research on productivity, I consistently find that the most productive people don’t just work hard but they take care of themselves as well. So, I decided to experiment with my time each day to try to find the optimal use of every hour but, I haven’t been able to figure it out. Why not? Because there simply are not enough hours in the day.

It’s a basic and very simple math problem. Let’s start by looking at the two “big rocks” which basically account for two thirds of your day right off the bat.

  • 8 hours for a good night’s sleep
  • 8 hours at work

Next, let’s add in the necessary things that we just must do every day:

  • 5 hours to prepare and eat three meals
  • 1 hour to get ready
  • 1 hour to commute
  • 30 minutes for household activities

That leaves us with less than 4 hours to take care of everything else that we should be doing to be healthy and productive including the following:

  • 1 hour to exercise
  • 1 hour to spend with family
  • 1 hour to read
  • 30 minutes for mindfulness (meditation, yoga or journaling, etc.)

But now there’s no time left for the following fun activities which we would rather and often do spend our time doing including:

  • Watching TV
  • Checking Social Media
  • Entertaining
  • Shopping
  • Playing Games or Sports

So, to get it all done, we skimp on the amount of sleep we get, we avoid taking mental breaks and limit exercising to just a few times a week. To make time for the things we like to do, we neglect the things we should be doing simply because there are not enough hours in the day.

Here’s a visual breakdown of how we should ideally spend our time compared to how we end up spending our time:

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 2.04.44 PM

One of my favorite TV shows is “24” and each season they save the world in 24 hours because they don’t sleep, eat, rest, socialize or even go to the bathroom! How’s that for being productive?

TRY THIS OUT: For the next few days track how you spend each hour of your day. How does it compare to the ideal breakdown of time? What are you spending more time on than you should and what are you not doing that you need to find time to do? Are there ways to adjust your schedule to find that optimal balance?

To Resolve or Not to Resolve?

To Resolve or Not to Resolve?

Another new year is upon us and we all get another fresh start. This time of year, 45% of us set New Year’s Resolutions to help us achieve our goals in the year ahead. So, does this tradition actually work?

While only 8% of those who made resolutions succeed in fully achieving them, people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t make any resolutions at all. So, why not give it a try this year?

The biggest reasons for failure are having too many goals, setting unrealistic goals, not keeping track of progress and forgetting about the goal or losing interest. Every one of these obstacles can be easily overcome if you are truly committed to making a change. So, how should you set your resolution this year?

First, select only one goal. It’s better to identify one thing and focus on achieving it versus picking several and not accomplishing any of them. Change is hard no matter what it is, so just tackle one thing at a time.

The top five resolutions people made in 2015 were to:

  1. Lose Weight
  2. Get Organized
  3. Spend Less/Save More
  4. Enjoy Life
  5. Say Fit and Healthy

One common theme each of these goals shares is that they are grand, over-arching and ambiguous. You will be a lot more successful if you set SMART goals. When setting a SMART goal, simply make sure it is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

So, instead of “Lose Weight,” set a goal to “Walk 10,000 steps a day and limit your caloric intake to 2,000 calories a day.” If that’s too over-whelming, start with one and then add in the other when you’re ready.

Instead of “Get Organized,” set a goal to “Download priorigami and use it to track tasks and set and complete your top three priorities each day.”

Instead of “Spend Less/Save More,” set a goal to “Limit weekly spending to $200 and save $500 a month.”

In 2016, I wanted to focus on fitness but I was very overwhelmed facing a big huge commitment to exercise so I started by dedicating at least 5 minutes every day to fitness. I wrote down “Five 4 Fit” and hung it up on my bathroom mirror to serve as a daily reminder of my goal. I am happy to say that by starting out small I was able to commit to my goal and now I’m exercising daily as part of my routine.

TRY THIS OUT: If you were to set one resolution for 2017, what would it be? How can you turn that into a SMART goal? Are you up for the challenge? How will you track your progress and reward yourself along the way?

Five Habits of Highly Productive People

Five Habits of Highly Productive People

Last summer when I was heads down working my corporate job, one of my male colleagues stopped me one day and asked, “How do you do it?  How do you get it all done?” We set up some time and I started talking through how I managed my life – all of it, from work, to home to school and sports and throw on a few non-profit Boards.

What I found through our conversation was that over the past 25 years in the working world trying to juggle life, I had developed a methodology for getting things done. This system includes lots of little tips and tricks that I’m sharing with you on my blog, but in the bigger picture it all comes down to perfecting and instituting these five habits.

  1. Clearly Know Your Goals

If you ask productive people about their goals, they will be able to rattle them off to you without any hesitation. They know what they want and they can clearly articulate what they are trying to achieve. Also make sure you periodically review your goals and adjust if needed because things do change.

  1. Break Down Goals into Achievable Tasks

You cannot achieve your goals without a plan. To build a realistic plan, break down your goals into tasks that you can manage and use to measure progress. For example, if your goal is to plan a party, start with the first few steps: create the invitation, generate the guest list, plan the menu, etc.

  1. Keep a Prioritized To-Do List

Store all your tasks in one central place like a simple task management app like priorigami. By having a home for all your tasks, you don’t have to depend on your brain to remember things or check several different places to figure out what you need to do next. This also makes it easy to review your tasks and select your top three daily priorities.

  1. Schedule Focused Time to Complete Tasks

Once you have identified your top three tasks, look at your calendar and block calendar time to get them done around other scheduled events, appointments and meetings. This step will ensure you dedicate focused time to completing your prioritized tasks. If something urgent arises, as if often does, then adjust your priorities and then reschedule your time to accommodate the disruption.

  1. Reward Yourself

To help you stay motivated and focused when you are working on a task, reward yourself upon completing a task. Perhaps it’s 15 minutes on social media or talking to a friend or a night out for dinner. It doesn’t matter what it is so long as you enjoy and look forward to it. This coupled with the self-satisfaction of completing your tasks and getting one step closer to your ultimate goals will keep you going.

TRY THIS OUT: What are your top three goals right now? If you can’t clearly answer that question, then start there. If you can, break down your goals into tasks and select the top three to start on tomorrow. Schedule time in your calendar to complete those three tasks, then take it from there.

So Many Inboxes, So Much Time

So Many Inboxes, So Much Time

My phone buzzes. My instinct is to instantly grab it to see what someone needs. But wait, what do I check first? There are just so many incoming messages coming into so many different inboxes. So, how do we keep up? It’s no wonder we waste so much time checking and responding to messages without realizing how ineffectively we are using these tools to actually communicate.

So, back to my phone. I read a few text messages and respond to one. Move on to email. I have my personal email box and my business one. Too many messages. I’ll come back to that later. I have 10 messages on my Slack channel, something must be going on. My LinkedIn app is showing a new unread message so I go there next to see who might want to connect. Then Facebook Messenger is indicating a few more incoming messages. While I’m here, I might as well check to see if I have any Twitter Likes, Retweets and DMs and Instagram Likes and DMs as well.

An hour later, what have I actually accomplished? Absolutely nothing. And quite honestly I’m not sure what I’ve learned and what I should do next. It’s like flipping through 200 channels without watching a thing.

Here are some communication best practices you might want to consider before sending your next message:

TEXT MESSAGES

 Unless you’re communicating with close friends or family, reserve texting for short, urgent messages that can be addressed with a quick, short response back. Try to avoid sending group text messages since every response goes to all recipients. Don’t use text messages to connect with someone for the first time.

EMAIL

Use email for most communications to share information, coordinate meetings and events or collaborate on ideas. Email is also great for communicating with groups of people. Use email if you’re asking the recipient to do something for you. This way your message will also serve as a reminder to them.

FACEBOOK

Facebook is a personal, social network and should be used to communicate primarily with friends and family. Be thoughtful about reaching out to co-workers, bosses or employees since they may not be comfortable connecting on a personal level. Also, try to avoid pushing your products or services too aggressively.

LINKEDIN

Think of LinkedIn as your extended professional network. This is where you can connect comfortably with work associates and partners. Be sure to limit posts, messages and updates to professional topics and articles.

TWITTER

Limit Twitter use to sharing breaking news, articles and updates. Sports scores, headlines, quotes and updates with immediate relevance all make the most sense for Twitter.

INSTAGRAM

People look at Instagram, they don’t read it. The photo or image you post should be the message and should stand alone. People shouldn’t have to read the caption and comments to understand the message.

Most importantly, don’t use send out the same message through all of these channels. Pick the most appropriate communication channel for your message and send it!

Gotta go.  My phone just buzzed. It must be something urgent.

TRY THIS OUT: Try to set aside a few times a day to check your various inboxes during breaks in between work times and meetings. Also, it really helps to turn off all of your notifications, alerts and badges. Before you shoot off your next message, think about the list of best practices above and make sure you’re using the best channel for the message.

Smarter Uses of Your Smartphone

Smarter Uses of Your Smartphone

We all carry around our smart phones as if they were a part of our body and check them an average of 85 times a day. Not only do they serve as phones, they have replaced calendars, cameras, alarm clocks and radios. For some they have even taken the place of our computers. Here are some additional features of your smart phone that you may not be taking advantage of that can help you increase your productivity.

DON’T ANSWER TO A NUMBER

This one is very basic but hard to do. With contacts, you can see who is calling you. If you don’t recognize the phone number of the person calling you, DO NOT answer it. Let them leave a message and then you can determine if and how to respond. Nine times out of ten, they won’t even leave a message. Also, if someone you know calls but you’re in the middle of something, stay focused and give them a call back later.

KEEP TRACK OF TASKS

You always have your phone with you so it’s the best place to keep track of your tasks. Whenever something pops into your mind to get done, enter it into an app on your phone and then you don’t have to remember to remember to do it later. Free your mind and use your phone store your tasks. Plus, when you have time, all of your tasks will be in one single place making it much easier to prioritize.

USE YOUR TIMER

Being productive requires focus which is becoming more and more challenging given the large number of distractions competing for our attention. Try using the timer on your phone to set aside 20-30 minute blocks of time for focused, uninterrupted deep work. You will be amazed at how much you can get done in that amount of time as well as how quickly time flies by. When the timer goes off, reward yourself with a quick 5-10 minute break and then repeat.

SET REMINDERS

If you have to do something at a particular time or by a specific time, set a reminder. Reminders will alert you with a buzz and a quick message so you don’t forget something critically important. In this case, this type of alert or notification can actually save you.

TRY THIS OUT: Think about how you currently use your phone. It is just for phone calls, emails and text messages? What other features can you utilize to help you stay focused and become more productive. Pick one of the suggestions from above and try it out for a week to see how it feels and if it is helpful or not.