managing time

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.

Going On Vacation? Leave Your Work Behind

It’s summer and time to get away from it  all.  We know that vacations help us rest, recharge, and return to  work more relaxed and more productive.  But the  truth is we still  worry about what we will return to and what we  are leaving behind.
Remember that time does fly, whether you’re  having fun or just plain busy.  The only way to “stop” time is to  punctuate it with key experiences and events that give you pause to  remember.
Without vacations, our years may end up being  a blur of busyness and stress.  When we separate our vacations  from work, we are free to enjoy relationships and build  memories.
This year let’s make it a  work-free getaway. Put aside the urge to be efficient. Forget about email, your office, and managing your time to get the most done in the day. Enjoy the time — and the opportunity — to do something else. When you return from vacation, you will feel renewed and ready to tackle the work load.
Please feel free to write to us at any time and let us know how you are spending your vacation this summer.

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.

 

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.

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.

Get Big Projects Done With Block Scheduling

The Case for Block Scheduling

On average, according to researcher David Meyer, switching time increases the amount of time it takes to finish the primary task you were
working on by an average of 25%. In short, juggling activities is incredibly inefficient.

It takes 25 minutes to regain concentration after each interruption. (Source: University of California-Irvine Study)

What are the benefits of Block Scheduling?

  • It keeps you focused on the project at hand and prevents you from “flitting” from project to project with each interruption.
  • You avoid interruptions during specific blocks and gladly accept them during other blocks.
  • You accomplish more in a day.
  • Your output is likely to be better quality because you weren’t hurried and could do your best work.
  • You have better control over your schedule.
  • You can tackle big projects by breaking them down into steps and doing one or more of the steps during a block time.

Try it

  • Make an appointment with yourself and honor it the same way you’d honor a meeting.
  • Set up blocks of time on your calendar throughout the week.
  • Stick to the schedule as closely as possible, even with appointments and meetings that arise at the last minute.
  • Schedule the blocks of time when you do your best thinking and are most creative.

Tip:  1 – 1/2 ½ hours most days of the week is ideal but 2-3 days may be most practical, especially at the beginning.

Can It’s Time To Get Organized help you set up your block schedule so you can get the maximum out of each day? Call 404-3-3-8431 or email: info@ItsTimeToGetOrganized.com.

 

How To Reduce Unwanted Mail

I don’t know about you, but I dislike the piles of junk mail that show up in my mailbox unsolicited. I sift through the junk immediately keeping my eye out for important pieces of mail, hoping I do not overlook something important. Before even stepping into my house, I typically fling into the trash:

  • —  Magazines and catalogs I have no intention of reading.
    —  Coupon flyers I have no intention of cashing.
    —  Special offers from local retailers, land companies, real estate firms, etc. I have no intention of using.

Would you like to reduce the pounds of junk mail that weigh you down? Would you like to open your mail box and find only first class mail?

Below are opt-out websites that will help make this happen.

1)   www.directmail.com — there is no cost to take you off lists.

2)  www.dmachoice.org — choose particular companies in the following four categories from which you still want to receive mail; eliminate the rest for five years or permanently.

  • Catalogs
  • Credit Offers
  • Magazine subscriptions, newsletters, periodicals, promotional mailings
  • Other Mail Offers such as: donation requests, bank offers and retail promotions

3)  www.OptOutPrescreen.com — the official consumer credit reporting industry website for consumers to opt in or opt out of credit or insurance offers for five years or permanently.

It will only take 15 minutes. Do it today. Go on the websites to minimize the amount of unwanted mail. You’ll love opening
your
mailbox.

What Do You Do With Newly Found Time?

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?