My friend Necia has been telling me for months that she intends to get organized.
The other day we were sitting next to one another in a meeting. She had a notebook in front of her and I was curious — what was she writing in it? She showed me. It is how she is finally getting her office organized. Her secret: she spends thirty minutes a day at this task and tracks her progress daily in the lined notebook.
Her notes look like this:
Day Commitment Actual Y/N Level Ripples
Mon. 4/3 Getting Organized Review old files Y 4 Got it done!
Tues. 4/4 Getting Organized File 30 minutes Y 3 Making Progress
Necia shared with me how she learned about evaluating her daily progress to reach a goal. The idea came from a newly released book called The Ripple Effect. Author Doug Grady has created an easy-to-implement system (just the kind we like!) to change a habit or to take action to get things done. We agree with Grady — small action steps help eliminate procrastination and keep you focused on your goal.
As efficiency experts, we are all about achieving goals and accomplishing the projects you rate highest on your list. Writing things down (or entering them into an electronic device) is an indication of your commitment. In fact, just the act of writing down your day-to-day progress has a positive effect on the outcome.So, Grady’s recommendation to keep track of progress in a notebook works. The cost to implement this solution? the price of a notebook and the desire to achieve your goal. That’s it.
Want to accomplish a project that you have thought about but not yet acted on? Try Grady’s method. This will be a positive use of your time and will help you achieve the results you desire.
With the start of spring and warm weather, it gets even more challenging to focus on the tasks you know you need to get done. Try these suggestions to stop the games you play with yourself to avoid the task at hand.
1) Add planning time to your day to decide what must get done.
2) Confront the task or project you have let slide. Is is still a priority? No? Take it off your list.
3) Write down specific steps to complete the project and estimate how long each step will take.
4) Decide what will make the task as easy as possible. A larger work surface? Last year’s documents? Uninterrupted time?
5) Set the mood. What external stimuli will entice you to get started? Music and snacks often the task more enjoyable.
6) Tackle the first step. If you have time, continue. If not, leave the next step for later.
7) Ask a trusted friend or colleague to help you get started.
What a feeling of relief and satisfaction knowing that the project is done — or, at least, started.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to the project I’ve been putting off.
If you have put off taxes, and many people have, there is still time to buckle down and finish them before April 15th. Asking for an extension just prolongs the misery and weighs you down. You know they need to be done so why not just get on with it? Now. There is no more time left to procrastinate.
How to start? Here are 10 easy-to-follow steps:
1) Set up a date to meet with your accountant, if you use one.
2) Schedule time on your calendar to work on your taxes (and only your taxes in this allotted time). Be sure to keep the appointments.
3) If your accountant has given you a worksheet, read it through carefully it so you know exactly what is needed.
4) Pull out all of your papers and divide them into categories. Print the documents that are on the computer or copy them onto a USB or CD for the accountant.
5) Sort the papers again, this time into subcategories. For example, you might begin with a stack labeled clients and gradually whittle it down to a number of individual clients.
6) Write down your questions so you do not forget to ask your accountant or a knowledgeable source.
7) Call for the documents that are missing.
8) Label each stack of documents, using binder clips to separate them. While all of these stacks may not be needed for the accountant or the IRS, it helps to stack them in an organized pile.
9) Put in as much energy and time as needed to finish the job on time. Forego weekends and week nights, if that is what it takes.
10) Make sure the government office signs a receipt and returns it to you. Keep the receipt in your tax file. If the IRS later on says that they never received your taxes, you have the proof that they were sent. This happens more than you may realize.
Now sit back and relax while your friends and colleagues scurry around in panic mode trying to meet their extension dates because they put their taxes off. And you didn’t!
Has this ever happened to you? At the last minute, a client cancels or a conference call is delayed — you were prepared for the meeting that now is not taking place. What do you do with the “extra” time on your hands?
View this as an unexpected bonus … a golden opportunity that has come your way out of the blue … and make the most of it. While many may see this time as the possibility of doing something less important such as: a phone call to a friend or a chance to try a new restaurant, this may be a chance to get a meaningful task completed that will bring you closer to your goals.
Aha! This is where your daily to-do list comes in handy. You have already decided the 3 tasks that must be done for the day. (That was done the night before or at the start of the day.) Choose the task that you can accomplish during this period of time and get it done in this block of newly found time. Stay focused throughout the period of time that would have been spent in a different way, if things had gone as planned.
How have you used time that was freed up unexpectedly?
Last week I was invited to speak to Georgia State legislatures about how to use their time most effectively. Their days are packed — several showed me their planners which they carry with them at all times so they know where they are meeting and with whom. Their planners are filled with activities and appointments from early morning until late in the evening.
We talked about making a powerful to-do list and how that will help them accomplish their projects and goals. And, the best news is that it reduces your stress levels.
Some of the tips I recommended too the Georgia State legislatures are:
Does your to-do list ramble on and on for pages? If so, try cutting it down so that you can accomplish everything on it. Think how great it will feel when you walk out at the end of the day with it all completed!
We constantly hear about the perils and horror stories of partnerships – well, I for one, vote yes to a good partnership that is based on honestly, trust, and the willingness to listen. It’s almost like a marriage. It’s a two way street. Always remember to say, “Please,” “Thank You,” and “Great Job.” Continually ask yourselves, “How can we make our partnership stronger?”
One benefit of a partnership is that even when you are unable to work, your clients’ needs will always get met. Whether it is a meeting, phone call or presentation your partner can communicate with the client or prospect if you are not available. Sometimes it is decided to reschedule and other times your partner takes over. Either way you know your client is in good hands. Note: This is also a good reason to introduce your partner to as many of your clients as possible.
Another benefit is accountability – who better than your partner to keep you on task! Whether it is sticking to our agenda or time checks throughout the day, we support each other.
Brainstorming is a huge benefit that is often overlooked by partners. Leslie and I value each others’ strengths and constantly brainstorm – two heads are definitely better than one.
I have been unable to work for over two weeks. My recovery has been faster because I was able to concentrate on my health as I knew Leslie was taking care of our business. I am sure our clients got top-notch service. Whether it is home emergencies, health issues, or needed vacations, a partner handles work while you are not there.
Strong partnerships take time and effort, but the benefits are worth it.
Time is finite and a limited resource so we want to make good use of it. We can spend it as we choose. Over the next month and a half we are providing training to a financial management firm on how we can help them become more productive and use their time as productively as possible.
Think of time as an investment. We all want the best possible return on our investments — strong time management skills directly contribute to maximizing our time and accomplishing our goals.
Think of time as a rate of return. When we spend our time in areas where there is a high rate of return, we are managing it well. For example, if you are spending time with clients or taking a class that will improve your productivity skills, that’s a good ROI. If a skill took four hours and now takes 1 hour, that’s an excellent payout. Even if you are currently productive, there are always ways to improve it.
However, what if you are spending time on work that you can delegate or reading a publication that is interesting but perhaps not educational? These might be a low or negative rate of return.
Here’s a suggestion to amp up your productivity:
1) Revisit your activities, daily tasks and how you handle large projects to make sure that you are maximizing your time.
2) List what you need to do to change this situation including the sstart and due date, and the specific activity.
3) Then add it to your planner. The chances that you will implement the change are much greater if the task is written down on a specific date.
4) Assess the outcome. Is it making a difference in how you are using your time? If so, continue to improve upon this new habit. If not, evaluate what you did and how you can make it work.
It’s worth it, we promise.
If you are like the rest of us, there are projects that don’t fit into our current priorities. You want to do them but can not get to them right away. One of our clients recently told us that she would like to write a newsletter but other goals are more pressing at the moment. Still, she does not want to forget about the idea.
If not all of the projects you want to accomplish in 2012 fit into your goals, here’s good news. They do not need to be abandoned. Instead, create a someday/maybe list where you can review and reassess their viability often.
Below are some suggestions for how and where to save your someday/maybe projects for a later time:
1) Write them down. List them on paper or electronic folder.
2) Label the folder “someday/maybe” or any name, for that matter, that speaks to you.
3) Check the folder every week to two weeks to make sure you still want to do the projects.
Consider storing the list in One Note, Evernote, Outlook’s notes section or in a file folder in your inbox. If it’s a paper folder, place the file folder in a location where you will see it often.
Once the information is stored electronically or in a paper file:
For more on this subject, check out David Allen’s website http://gtd.marvelz.com/blog/2007/08/14/somedaymaybe-unlikelynever-3-tips-to-fix-and-avoid-this/
Do you have a someday/maybe list and, if so, what’s on it?
Leslie Walden from It’s Time To Get Organized spoke at the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers (GAWL) mid-year meeting November 5, 2010. The interactive workshop provided practical ways to manage time more effectively, handle work load more efficiently, streamline office procedures, and maintain and build stronger client relationships. Attendees received CLE (Continuing Legal Education) credit. For information on how you can book It’s Time To Get Organized as a speaker, go to: http://www.itstimetogetorganized.com/services/seminars-workshops/