Productivity Tips

Why Bother With Goals?

 

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This past week our firm spoke at a program sponsored by the Buckhead Coalition to train Buckhead’s future

leaders. It was an exciting week for this select group of young professionals as they

learned about volunteerism, ethics, leadership and civic engagement over the five days.

Our topic:  why and how to create meaningful and actionable goals. While not everyone has goals, we

suggested to these young professionals that they are worth the bother because they help ensure that you’ll get

where you want to go. Without a roadmap, you can end up anywhere. ( We all know how that feels.) Most

people agree that with goals you are able to achieve so much more.

If you are still wondering why you need goals, here are seven more good reasons:

  • Helps us focus on what is important
  • Keeps us motivated
  • Keeps us on task
  • Provides a time frame for starting and ending projects
  • Forces us to be specific. Forget about day dreams and someday maybe. They won’t take you
  • Helps prioritize tasks in any given day
  • Starts with the end in mind

Most business executives, professionals and community leaders have written goals that they look at and

review on a regular basis. They consider it their ticket to productivity. Many of them have innovative

techniques to keep track of their goals.

  • Posting their goals in their office or in the conference room, if it is department goals
  • Writing them by hand vs. computer
  • Listing them on their screen saver
  • Storing them in their wallet so they show up every time they pull out a bill

When will you write your goals and where do you plan on posting them?

What’s On The Top Of Your Desk?

images[10]We all know that feeling — the times when nothing can stop you from reaching your maximum efficiency. Ideas come to you quickly and projects get done. By organizing your desk, you will know where everything is. It will save you time and energy. In the March 27, 2012 article from Forbes Magazine, author Jenna Goudreau talks about “The Dangers Of A Messy Desk.”

Keep only the essentials on the top of your desk within arm’s reach to help you stay organized and efficiently manage your work day. Other items scattered on your work space can get in the way, literally and figuratively. Papers, business cards, coffee cups and dozens of pens scattered about can easily distract you from the task at hand. And when it is hard to focus, it’s much more difficult to achieve your personal best.

In any discussion of desk surfaces, clients typically inquire about their personal items such as framed photos and other decorative objects. Our recommendation: limit personal items to two or three things that remind you why you come to work in the morning and why you leave in the evening. Rotate these items regularly to keep things fresh and interesting.

Schedule time in your planner to organize your desk. You’ll be glad that you did.

 

Tips To Experience A Work-Free Vacation

IimagesCAZU74SE Is it really possible  to leave the tech stuff home and focus on your loved ones?

Here are some ideas.

2-3 Weeks Before:

• Plan ahead  for meetings and appointments that are scheduled during your  vacation.  Select a delegate, cancel or reschedule.  • What decisions need to be made in your absence?  Empower others  with the knowledge to make those decisions. • Examine open projects.  Make sure nothing is due when you  are away.

• Block off your calendar the day you return for re-entry.

1 Week Prior to  Departure:

• Meet with all  direct reports and key business associates to:

a) Review current  issues.

b) Address priorities.

c) Schedule  meetings for the week you return.

The last Work Day  Before Vacation:

• Leave a  detailed extended absence greeting on your voice mail.  Give the name  and number of a person to contact while you are gone.  Tell  callers you will return calls by close of business the second day  after your return.

• Write an  out-of-office email.  Specify that you will not have access to  email and give names of people who can respond in your absence.

• Take a walk  through your office area and let people know what time today you will be  leaving for vacation.

On Vacation:

• Leave your  work home.

• Relax  and enjoy.

Your First Day Back:

• Take a walk  through your office area; get caught up on urgent issues.

• Check voice  mail and email.  Deal with priority situations first.

Save your favorite vacation photo as your  new computer desktop background.

Track Your Time With An Activity Log

Have you ever wondered where your time at work goes? Did you intend to submit a report today but, between phone calls and email, don’t finish it? Does the day slip by with little to show for it? All of us want to make better use of our time, be more productive and accomplish what we resolved to do at the beginning of the day.

Several people have recently shared with me that they know exactly what they do during the day, thanks to an activity log. They learned how they were spending their time by using this simple, low-tech tool. It made them aware that they could be using their time more efficiently.

Another benefit from an activity log is that it tells you when during the day that you are performing each task. It should be in synch with the times that you do your best thinking. Are you most creative and clear-headed in the morning? If so, that is when you need to tackle important projects. Phone calls and email can wait until late morning or the afternoon.

Here is a suggestion on how to set up an activity log to track how you spend time at work:

Create a worksheet with a pad or notebook or print one out showing half-hour time slots. You can download a sample time log template from: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_03.htm.

1)      Begin right away — input information into your activity log starting now. Include the type of activity and indicate how valuable you believe it is.

2)      Write your activities in half-hour time slots.

3)      Divide the time slots into categories. Examples of categories are: working on important tasks, answering email, making and responding to phone calls, meetings, socializing, lunch, etc.

4)      Track your time for 2-3 days; then calculate how much time is devoted to each category and when during the day you completed the work.

By tracking your time in half-hour time slots over a two-day period, you will learn exactly where your time goes. Are you using it to complete your most important tasks or are you devoting precious time to low value activities? You may decide to refocus your efforts as a result of your findings and consciously change the types of tasks you focus on and in what order.

Use valuable time at work to reach your goals faster; take advantage of what you learned from your Activity Log and put it to good use.   

For more information, read fellow blogger Jason Womack’s article on activity logs: http://www.entrepreneur.com/blog/225029

 

 

 

 

How To Transition From One Project to Another

A newsletter reader asked: “How do I switch gears between projects? When going from Project A to Project B, I find that I need to halt the brakes on Project A, skim through Project B’s file and figure out what the goals for the matter are, and then proceed, but in a way that makes me lose a lot of time.  Any organization tips on how to seamlessly juggle multiple matters?”

What a great question! Most people find it very difficult, if not impossible, to go from one project to another seamlessly. It’s hard to avoid interruptions and delays especially when winding down from a project and gearing up for another one. How easy it is to lose “flow”, that state of mind in which you are focused on the project at hand and are not distracted by anything else! The transition is tough to make.

Here are a few suggestions to make the switch easier:

1)      Before putting the project away, write a summary of what you did and what needs to be done next. Attach the summary to the documents. Be specific regarding next steps. Or enter the information electronically. Make sure it is readily available the next time you go to the project.

2)      Move any physical evidence of the project, such as a stack of documents , somewhere else – preferably out of sight and thus, out of mind. That way it will no longer be an obstacle to moving forward on another project.

3)      Take a mental or physical break (or both) to put space between the project completed and the upcoming one. This makes it easier to switch thought processes.

4)      Do little tasks in between two major projects. Switch to the phone or email but keep track of the time so you can transition to the next project.

5)      Start the second project by reviewing what needs to be done and listing the tasks involved. That will ease you into the project and give you a clear starting point.

Check out D. Keith Robinson on Lifehacker “How To Transition Projects Without Losing Your Flow” for more thoughts on approaching one project at a time. Like us, Robinson believes that multi-tasking and working on both projects at the same time wastes time. You may think that you’re getting twice as much done but, in reality neither project is receiving your best effort. Stick to one project at a time. Once it’s done, then move onto the next one.

 

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.

 

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.