Efficiency

5 Ways To Use A Planner Effectively

Here are 5 ways to use your planner to help you become more efficient and effective. By following these suggestions, you will get more done and become closer to your goals.

1)  Use your planner every day and check it often. Leave it on your desk in front of you. Some of our clients use paper planners and often apologize that they are not “tech saavy”. We assure them that it does not matter whether it is paper or an electronic, as long as you use it. (Tip: if you use an electronic version, you may want to print out the planner daily.)

2)      Capture all projects and tasks. Write everything down on paper or electronically. It takes a lot of mental energy to juggle projects, tasks, and upcoming activities in your brain. You will be able to concentrate on upcoming projects without this extra mental weight. At some point, your memory will fail.

3)      Review your week ahead of time – decide what is important based on your goals. Enter the tasks that must be done to support them. (Tip: make it visually easy to identify the most important tasks on your to-do list by highlighting them.)

4)      Use one planner for both personal and work. (Tip: color code the activities. It’s easy on a paper planner. On an electronic calendar categorize the activities, making personal appointments one color and business appointments a different color. My business appointments are in red.)

5)      Make your action steps concrete. Include appointments and commitments to others. Start with a verb. For example, call Fred re: Short client agreement. Don’t you agree that this  works far better than putting Fred on the planner?

What are you going to do with your planner to help you become more efficient?

 

 

 

 

 

Commit To Change

 In this day and age, changes are happening rapidly, especially in business. Who heard of social media or smart phones five short years ago? Change is the norm now. Being open to it may bring unexpected opportunities.

Changing behaviors and replacing them with new ones will help maximize efficiency — although getting there definitely takes effort. That new smart phone you just bought does all sorts of things, if you took the time to figure it out. Your business cards are in stacks everywhere on your desk but who has the time to learn a new contact management program? Your colleagues collaborate and work in the cloud, even though you have not tried this before. Your subordinates tell you that you do not delegate well but it’s their problem, not yours, right?

These are but a few examples of areas where making a change will bring high returns.

How do I turn these business situations to my advantage?  

Create a journal to track areas where change may be beneficial. Writing them down takes away some of the mental stress you may be feeling since you no longer need to remember them. Be as specific as possible. The journal will help you notice patterns and identify what is most important to tackle first.

Ask a trusted colleague for input on your behavior and ideas on how to modify it. This might be difficult to do but well worth it. Consider it your reality check. After all, this person is on your side.  

Develop a plan to turn the change to your advantage. Carve out the time to research and learn a new software program that you know will bring long-lasting benefits. Come up with time-saving templates and document processes that will save you time. Figure out the reasons you are late for meetings and set a series of action steps to change this behavior.   

Once you have committed to the change, hold on tight. Don’t give up. 

1)      Visualize the end result and keep that picture in front of you at all times.

2)      Plan non-work time on your calendar to implement the changes, including adding deadlines.

3)      Accept the fact that there will be setbacks and push through them until you achieve what you set out to do. 

What change are you going to commit to? Write to us and let us know. 

Read more on making lasting changes.

Get Your Taxes Ready NOW For Next Year

While you are working on this year’s taxes, keep in mind what you can do now to make next year’s preparation easier. Even though it may be months and months away, there are actions you can take now to organize your taxes and make the process smoother throughout the year and at tax time.

• What worked well and what could be “tweaked”? If it took time to gather credit card statements, designate a “home” to keep them in one place during the coming year. Separate by card number.

• Set up specific file folders – paper or electronic – and drop or scan documents for next year’s taxes into them throughout the year.
Suggestion: Devote an easily accessible filing box or accordion folder exclusively to next year’s taxes.

• Highlight tax donations in your checkbook and on credit card statements as you check them monthly. (Suggestion: Use different color highlighters to differentiate categories such as for home maintenance and tax deductions.)

• Scan tax receipts using a mobile scanner (such as Neat Receipts or SnapScan. Makes it easy to export data into programs such as Quicken, QuickBooks and TurboTax.

Even though tax season may be months and months away, take these time-saving actions now.

 

Start Tax Preparation Now

 

Try these tips to organize your tax documents and files:

  • Block out appointments with yourself on your calendar to complete the work. Be reasonable about how much you can accomplish at one time.
  • Estimate the time you will need and then double it.

Research filing and extension deadlines … know the IRS dates.

Keep a copy of last year’s return on-hand.

Gather all reported tax forms (W2’s, 1099 dividends, 1099 interest, etc.). Then organize data by type.

Sort data into specific categories: e.g. donations (money and in-kind).

If you prepare your taxes electronically:

You can import last year’s taxes onto this year’s form by using the same software as the previous year.

If you prepare your taxes manually:

Below are sources that may carry the forms you need:
www.irs.gov (Sends them at no charge)
• Some local libraries and post offices
• Office supply stores (for larger quantities)

Use a tax organizer. (Search “tax organizer” on web for free ones to download.)

If your taxes are prepared by a tax professional:

Make an appointment now.

It will be a huge relief to get this job done. Personally, I can’t wait to finish mine.

Clean Up Your Workspace in 2013!

Did you know that January 9 is Clean Up Your WorkSpace Day? It’s that important and crucial for your success that a special day has been designated. And it is at the beginning of the new year. As productivity specialists, we highly endorse sprucing up your workspace. It will help you be more organized and efficient in 2013.

Try this tip: Limit the items on the top of your desk to phone, computer, current projects, office supplies and planner.

These items are all essential organizing tools that sit on the top of your desk within arm’s reach and help you stay organized and efficiently manage your work day.

These five work tools will help you concentrate on the task at hand and help improve your productivity.

Your Planner: This is your #1 work tool. If you don’t do anything else, update and check your planner at least once or twice a day, if not more. It doesn’t matter if it is paper or electronic. What does count is a dependable system that keeps all meetings, contacts and tasks in one place and handy.

Your Computer: Are you able to find the electronic document you need immediately? From personal experience, we can vouch that a task takes a lot longer when you spend the first half hour (or hour) searching for a file folder.

Organizing your computer file folders now — in the beginning of 2013 — is well worth it.

Your Active Projects: What are you working on today? Reserve your desk surface for projects and tasks that represent today’s priority items. Projects and tasks that will be priorities at a later date can be kept in your working files drawer or a step-up file folder.

Your Phone: Keep a phone log or spiral notebook beside your phone to use as a record of voice mail messages. Or, record the information into a to-do list on your computer that synchs with your cell phone for easy callbacks.

If the caller is someone whom you will need to call again, record their information in your contact list. So long back-of-envelope!

Supplies: If you have to shove aside stationery, envelopes and boxes of business cards to reclaim your work surface, it may be time to rethink what you need at hand. Keep a few items and move the rest to the supply closet.

Take a look at your own desktop tools. Are they going to help you stay the course?

By following these tips, 2013 will be off to a great start!

 

What new organizing habit in 2013 will make you more efficient?

Can you name one new productivity technique that will help make you more productive in the new  year?  Here are a few examples:

  • Prioritizing throughout the day by constantly asking yourself “Is this the most important thing I should be doing now?”
  • Planning for the next day by using a 15-minute closing ritual (see July 31, 2012 newsletter from It’s Time To Get Organized).
  • Reducing the number of interruptions throughout the day
  • Writing a to-do list, checking it often (paper or electronic),, and keeping it front and center
  • Organizing your electronic or paper files and MAINTAINING the organization.
  • Spending less time on email by reducing the volume — unsubscribing, using rules to move specific email into different folders, giving enough information in your reply so that a return  email will not be necessary .

Let us know what new system you will try in 2013.

How Would You Rate Your Company’s Performance This Year?

Here we are at the end of 2012. How did business go these past 12 months? Would you rate your business a 10 because sales revenue and profits are at an all-time record?  Or a 2 because you did not achieve what you set out to do and sales are down. Often the answer is somewhere in between these two extremes. Some things went well and others may not have been as successful.

Regardless of the number, this is a perfect time to reflect on what went well and what needs to be improved:

  • Review last year’s goals; Then write down goals for this coming year.
  • List the programs you implemented this year that performed well and then add the programs that were less so;  decide which ones to keep, which ones to improve upon and which ones to chalk up as a learning experience.
  • Set up periodic reminders to evaluate programs on a quarterly basis (or even sooner). That way there will be no surprises at the end of the year. It may allow you to change direction mid-stream to refocus the program.
  • Evaluate your productivity systems and decide what you can do to improve them. They may impact your strategies and goals and perhaps will help the programs run more smoothly.

What would you like your company’s performance to be next year at this time?

What Worked This Year?

We often think of the things that we did not do this year especially when it comes to being more productive, more efficient and more organized. For example, I had resolved in January to be a social media whiz by the end of 2013 but, it didn’t happen.

Well, then, how about starting with the positives instead of focusing on what we did not do.  What was the best thing you did in 2012 that you can repeat – or improve upon — in 2013? Was it going after and landing repeat business? Was it a YouTube strategy that now draws people to your website?

Can you name 2 or 3 things that went well for you this past year? Then focus your efforts and attention on these areas. Be efficient and manage your time well so you can duplicate your efforts.

Thank you to Bottom Line Personal. The article on the front cover of the December 15, 2012 issue “The Best Thing I Did in 2012 That You Can Do in 2013” sparked this blog idea.

Close Out The Year: Try This Checklist

  • Start gathering your papers and electronic files needed for taxes. Yes, now. Credit card and bank statements, receipts, anything you will need to take to your accountant. And, speaking of your accountant …
  • Meet with your accountant to review your situation and determine what, if any, actions to take before the official close of the year.
  • Pay outstanding invoices and avoid back dating checks in January.
  • Decide if money owed you now should be paid this year or in January. There may be advantages to moving the revenue into the following year.
  • Archive 2012 email. If your inbox is filled to the brim, here’s your opportunity to reduce your email volume. And compressed email takes up less space. It’s a win-win.

Thanksgiving: Be Thankful For Work You Enjoy

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, it is a good time to think about what you are thankful for in life. Many people mention family and friends first. But how about being grateful for a job you enjoy? Do you thrive on your work? Most positions require dedication and hard work although it may not feel that way if you draw energy from what you do.

What about the people who are passionate about their work but feel they are held back because they are not as productive as they would like to be? Lack of time management may be affecting their output. If you are in this category, read the tips below on how you can strengthen your efficiency skills.

  • Ask organized and productive colleagues to name the most important thing they do to remain productive. Give one of those ideas a try but remember that you need to practice correctly for 21 days straight. Otherwise back to the drawing board to research additional ways to strengthen productivity skills.
  • Read books, blogs or websites. Check out David Allen (www.davidco.com), Allan Lakein (Http://thinkingdirections.com/articles6Lakein.htm) or Harold Taylor (www.taylorintime.com). All have different views and suggestions on how to improve your productivity … what it takes to become more organized and get more done in a day.
  • Attend a class at a community college or from Fred Pryor (www.pryor.com/. Pryor offers a slew of courses to make you more productive including one called Managing Multiple Priorities.
  • Ask a friend or family member to shadow you. With an accountability partner, it not as easy to give up and go back to your old, comfortable, non-productive habits.

How are you going to become more organized and productive? Please share your ideas with us.