time management

Handy Microsoft Outlook Tips

Drag and Drop

Of all of the amazing features in Outlook, Drag and Drop is among the very best. It is a very simple way to reduce email volume and a huge time saver for organizing information in your inbox. No longer do you need to scroll through a long email list to find the one that needs to have an answer right away. Some people drag and drop their email into folders but this feature can be used far more widely than that. In the training seminars I give I teach people how to move email from the inbox into the calendar, tasks, contacts and notes.

Here’s how:

  1. Open Outlook and go to your inbox.
  1. Find an email that you want to move to a Folder, Task, Appointment, Contact or Note.
  2. Put your mouse pointer directly on the email you want to move and press left button. Keep holding it while moving the email to the bottom of the Navigation Pane on the left side of the screen.
  3. When you get to the place you want to move the email, release the mouse button.
  4. (Note: you can use the right side of the mouse as well. It will give you a choice to copy or move.)

If you drag and drop the email onto the Calendar icon, the email subject will automatically be the subject of the appointment although you can easily change it. Note that the email will be in the body of the appointment for easy reference. Add a date, start and end time for the appointment and location (if desired) and save.

If you drag and drop the email onto the Contacts icon, just click save and you will have created a new contact.

If you drag and drop the email onto the Tasks icon, the subject will be the same as the email (although it can be changed). Fill in the start and due date. (You can also fill in the status and priority if desired). A reminder can also be added. The original email will be in the section below.

It’s that easy! Give it a try today.

Quick Steps (for 2010)

Introduced in 2010, this feature allows you to quickly manage any email by using shortcuts. You can do in one click what ordinarily might take several clicks. Each Quick Step can be customized and used on a daily basis. For example: you can move an email to a specific folder and mark it as read. Or you can forward an email. My favorite Quick Step is to reply and delete. With one click both steps are accomplished.

Below are handy Quick Steps actions that you may want to explore:

  • Filing: Move to folder, copy to folder, delete message, permanently delete message
  • Change Status: Set as read, set as unread, set importance
  • Categories, Tasks and Flags: Categorize messages, clear categories, flag message, clear flags on messages, mark complete, create a task with attachment, create a task with text of message
  • Respond: New message, Forward, Reply, Reply All, Reply with meeting, forward message with attachment
  • Appointment: New meeting, create an task with attachment, create an appointment with text of message

Here’s How To Create a Quick Step:

  1. In Mail, on the Home tab, in the Quick Steps group, in the Quick Steps gallery, click the Create New Quick Step.
  2. Click an action type from the list or click Custom.
  3. In the Name box, type a name for the new Quick Step.
  4. Click the icon button next to the Name box, click an icon, and then click OK.
  5. Under Actions, choose an action that you want the Quick Step to do. Click Add Action for any additional actions.

Now go and create new Quick Steps!

You’re Late!

Everyone is late from time to time (even you and me), often for a reason that can not be helped. But that’s not who we are going to discuss today. We are going to talk about people who are chronically late — people who do not leave enough time to get someplace on time. Often they often arrive late for lunch, an appointment or an important event like a job interview or a wedding.

If someone is consistently late, it can be a problem for friends and family who feel like victims. It can even damage the relationship. We all know how it feels to be sitting and waiting for a friend who is always late. “Sorry”, she mumbles when she arrives, “but I had to write an important email before I left and, oh, the traffic was really bad.” Maybe she thinks these excuses are acceptable but they get old quickly. It is tempting to give my friend an earlier time so she’ll actually arrive on time.

A far more serious problem is the effect being late has on relationships at work. Unfortunately, chronic latecomers have a poor reputation. Colleagues resent it when their peers show up for meetings after they have started. They do not feel as if they can trust their colleague. Far worse, it can eventually limit career advancement. It’s that serious.

According to Diana DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again, most people don’t like being late but this behavior was often acquired a long time ago. Even when they try to be on time, it is extremely difficult to break lifelong habits.

What are some of the reasons that people are chronically late?

  • Their time is more important than yours, so they think, and they are indifferent to whether it bothers you. They may consider themselves more important and consider their contribution at work more substantial than yours.
  • They squeeze in as much as possible in as little time as possible. Or, they are distracted by last-minute to-dos such as answering the phone instead of letting it go to voicemail. Everything is a distraction. They forget that these things can wait until later.
  • They enjoy being late and making others wait. This person may be insecure – arriving well after the appointed hour may make them feel important.
  • Some latecomers like creating a grand entrance especially if it’s a large group that is sympathetic to their plight and does not know their history of chronic lateness. Of course they apologize but they also get center stage.
  • They do not have a good perception of time and tend to underestimate it. Often people who are chronically late fail to build in enough slack time for unforeseen situations.
  • Certain traits also tend to make people chronically late such as anxiety, low self-control and a tendency toward thrill-seeking. It’s an adrenaline rush to beat the clock.
  • They thrive on the mini-crisis they create when they are running late and deliberately   put themselves under the gun to get themselves moving.

Interestingly, some people are not comfortable with the idea of being early. They do not know what to do with the “extra time” and are frustrated at not making “every minute count.” The thought of downtime with nothing to do is uncomfortable. The last thing they want to do is wait.

What is their idea of being on-time? In a perfect world, some latecomers aim to arrive exactly at the start time. People who tend not to be late view it quite differently. On-time for them is arriving 15 minutes early which eliminates the stress and gives them a chance to grab a cup of coffee, relax and even scout things.

Try these tips for being on time:

  1. Make being prompt a priority. Recognize the negative, stressed out feelings you have when you are late.
  2. Build in travel time on the calendar. People who are chronically late tend to underestimate how long it will take to get to a place and be situated.
  3. Imagine how it will feel to be on time, even early, without the familiar feelings of being stressed. People will respect that you are on time.
  4. Get ready early. Gather up the documents you need ahead of time. That way, if an interruption occurs, you can handle it and still be ready to leave on time. Some of our clients begin preparing for the meeting when they are supposed to leave.
  5. Take reading material or something with you so you do not feel as if you are wasting time while you are waiting. Plan it ahead of time so you know that your time will be used efficiently. It will feel so good that you will want to do it again.
  6. If you are late most of the time, plan to be on time two times out of five. As you get better, add another time so that you are eventually on time five times out of five. Keep track of your progress with a journal (or Evernote).
  7. Plan the night before what you will need for appointments the next day and when you need to leave. Make sure to check for early morning meetings. It is no fun when the meeting stops and everyone looks at you when you walk into a meeting late.
  8. Watch the clock. Late people do not tend to be aware of the time.
  9. Set the timer, even two. One for when to start getting ready and the other for when to walk out the door.
  10. Think about the actions you will need to take to be ready to leave on time.
  11. Estimate the time you need to get somewhere and double it.
  12. Stop doing other things well before you leave. Remind yourself they can be done later.
  13. Fine yourself if you are late or give yourself a negative consequence says Dr. Phil. http://www.drphil.com/articles/article/215.
  14. Estimate how long something will take and then compare it with the actual time it took.

 

The 15-Minute Opening Ritual

images1-150x150[1]How do you start your work day? Do you dive right in to email or grab the first thing you see on your desk when you walk in the office? In this blog, we will discuss how you can maximize your productivity all day long just by following a routine in the first 15-30 minutes of the work day.

One of the hallmarks of a successful person is that h/she creates many positive habits and follows them, day in and day out. One of them is a morning ritual that keeps them efficient and effective throughout the day. Highly productive and successful people resist diving in to their to-dos until they have mapped out the day. Planning the way the day so it will be as productive as possible is always first.

Q: Why is the 15-Minute Opening Ritual that big a deal?

A: There are multiple reasons; let’s start with these:

  1. The most important things will get done that day.
  2. Fewer items will fall through the cracks. With the right systems, you’ll stay on track. Now you can focus on what matters rather than mentally juggling a list of to-dos. A morning ritual removes a lot of unnecessary stress and worry and replaces it with positive energy.
  3. You are proactive and have better control over the day; you are running the show.

Q: Most of us do our best thinking in the morning when our cognitive resources are at high alert. What’s going on?

A: Our cognitive resources are stored in the prefrontal cortex part of the brain. This is where we use our working memory to perform high-level functions such as planning, prioritizing, making decisions, and delegating. This part of the brain allows you to envision the day and maximize your productivity which is why a morning ritual is so valuable. High level thinking requires a tremendous amount of working memory and needs your undivided attention. The last thing we want to do is squander this valuable resource on low-level tasks such as email and phone calls. They need to wait until later when the prefrontal cortex is tired and then we can switch to less taxing activities.

Q: Can you describe my day using the 15-Minute Opening Ritual?

A:  Your day will be well-planned and will flow more smoothly than if you approach it haphazardly and reactively. The key is to focus ahead of time – usually in the morning or the night before – to decide what needs to be accomplished and what the day will look like. Remember — not everything needs to be done immediately. Some tasks can be moved to other days while others you know must be attended to right away.

Here is an example of a 15-Minute Opening Ritual:

Arrive early for work or at least be on time. This one act alone sets a positive tone for the day, helps you stay calm, and eliminates the rushed and stressed feelings that otherwise might stay with you throughout the day. With fewer people in the office and the phone silent, this is an ideal time to envision, assess, and prepare for the day.

Crave caffeine? We would be remiss if we ignored the well-trod trip for a cup of coffee or a Diet Coke (after all, this is the South). On your way there and back, greet everyone who crosses your path and make connections although this is not a license to linger. No thinking required. At least not yet.

Is your desk clear of papers? If not, remove the clutter. Messy work spaces can be distracting and studies show that colleagues are judgmental even if you are the best performer in the office.

Review your calendar for important meetings, appointments. Add uncompleted tasks from yesterday to your schedule along with new ones and decide which ones to attend to today. But do not start on them yet.

Leave enough white space for unexpected happenings and emergencies that are sure to occur.

Know your schedule and look at it often throughout the day. (Tip: With two monitors you can display your calendar throughout the day.)

Review your to dos and determine the three most important tasks that must be done today. (We understand that your list is a mile long and you are probably protesting just reading this. However, when you leave the office at the end of the day, you will feel good about your accomplishments. (Tip: Hear what Stephen Covey says about important vs. urgent.)

Break projects down into chunks so they are not overwhelming. Once you have listed the steps, prioritize them and decide what you can accomplish today. The second step may have to wait until another day.

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. It is not enough to just identify the three important tasks. Brian Tracy in Eat That Frog suggests scheduling the least appealing task first.

Decide when during the day you will do the 3 tasks and enter them into the calendar at the times you are going to handle them. If you double the time you estimate the task will take, you will probably be right.

Turn off external interruptions such as the ding on your email and the ringer on your phone (or at least send messages to voicemail). Colleagues walking by will notice your closed door and get the message that you are not to be disturbed because you are in the midst of your 15-Minute Opening Ritual.

What about internal interruptions? That’s the voice inside you that is thinking about where you will eat lunch instead of concentrating on what you are doing now.

Save low-level activities such as phone calls and email for later. Chunk them together and add them to the calendar. If you do fall into the black hole of email, an hour will slip by and your good intentions to be productive and focused will be derailed.

Listen to voice mail for messages and enter them in your computer or write them down on the pad located next to the phone. Plan when you will return calls but don’t do them now.

Make sure your to do list is realistic and up-to-date. Successful and productive people we interviewed all had working to-do lists that they reviewed throughout the day.

If you need to get in touch with someone and receive an answer that day, phone or email as soon as you have completed the 15-Minute Opening Ritual. It’s the best chance of reaching someone.

For more information, check out these websites:

 

Be Proactive And More Productive: Starting Now!

Many of us want to do things differently in 2014. If you own a business or work in a company it may be time to make changes. Where to start? Before implementing changes, you may consider what you want to be different and think it through to figure out the best way to go about it. Viewing the situation from a positive, proactive view makes a world of difference in attitude and will help you achieve the changes you desire.

One of our all-time favorite books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People devotes an entire chapter to this subject. The very first habit in the book is called “Be Proactive.” Stephen Covey, the author, talks about a person’s ability to get things done and not accepting excuses such as: “it is always done that way.” Or, “I don’t have the expertise or the ability.” The list of excuses goes on and on and can be self-fulfilling. (Language makes a big difference.) Covey believes, as do we, that a person has the ability to make conscious choices and the imagination and resources to determine how to handle matters … instead of them handling you. We can choose to be a victim or take the matter into our own hands and decide that things will be different in the future.

In the area of productivity, the situations listed below may frustrate you. However, take a look at the suggestions on how to exercise your proactive muscles.

Are you constantly interrupted at work and cannot get enough completed during the day? You take work home most nights (reactive) because it is the only time the phone isn’t ringing and people are not stopping by your office to ask a quick question.

Now let’s go the proactive route.

The phone rings while you are working on an important project? Purposely let it go to voicemail. Or, a colleague pokes her head into your office and asks “Have a minute?”. What a perfect time to get out of your chair and start walking down the hall! Stand-up meetings are notoriously short. You have just avoided an unplanned, possibly time-wasting meeting in your office.

After deliberating and deliberating, you finally decided a few weeks ago to splurge and purchase the newest smart phone model with all of the bells and whistles. Unfortunately, you do not consider yourself tech-saavy and haven’t even taken the item out of the box. It will have to wait until you have more time and can figure out how to use it.

How about this for a possible solution? Invite a friend with the same phone out for lunch– your treat.

You know you need to delegate more so you can maximize your efficiency and finish projects faster but you are not exactly sure what the process entails. It seems easier to do the project yourself.

Possible solution: Sign up for a leadership class, read a book on the subject or consult a colleague who has mastered this skill. Once you become comfortable with delegating, you can concentrate on the projects that will bring you closer to your goals. You’ll be glad that you took action instead of avoiding the situation and continuing to do the same old thing. As the saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results.

Unfortunately, not every area is within our control but, as Stephen Covey points out, we have more control than we realize. It depends on how we view it. If you are proactive (or are going to make an effort to become more proactive), it will require a conscious choice on your part.

The only way these changes will come about is if you take charge and act on them. Your colleagues may prefer to be reactive and decide to wait until something happens but, if your productivity is going to increase, now is the time to take action.

As you decide to become more proactive, mistakes may happen. That is perfectly acceptable. Try not to dwell on them. Accept the mistake, learn from it, and move on. Be the person in your firm or in your circle of friends who has a positive attitude, is willing to try new ideas and not let mishaps get in the way. You may be amazed at the great leaps in effectiveness you achieve vs. those who are not willing to make the effort.

How about starting small and setting realistic goals that may take a month or two? Once you have tasted success, you will begin to see that your proactive moves are doable. Covey makes the following suggestions to get you on the proactive track:

Listen to your own language and the people around you to pick up on negative and positive thoughts.

Anticipate an experience that will be likely to happen soon and envision yourself responding positively.

Decide if a problem is actionable or if you do not have control over it. If you can solve it, figure out how.

Take the 30 day proactivity test and zero in on the things that will make a positive difference.

Write to us and share what steps you are taking in 2014 to become more proactive. We are eager to hear and available to help.

 

 

The 15-Minute Closing Ritual

The 15-Minute Closing Ritual is a technique that It’s Time To Get Organized created to ensure that each day runs smoothly. Recently, tips and techniques on what to during this closing ritual were posted in the Abacus blog to help maximize the time management techniques of thousands of attorneys. Not only does it keep attorneys working efficiently but it will benefit others as well.

Most of us lack energy or inclination at the end of the day to get organized for the next day. Yet, those 15 minutes yield a huge payoff.  Check out the blog to read about how you can add this highly successful routine to your day.

Managing Your Time Effectively: A Perspective from Franklin Covey

Book Cover

One of the books we refer to often when we speak to businesses is  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. We particularly like the Time Management Matrix in the third chapter, Put First Things First, because it is all about the importance of results. Stephen Covey divides all matters into four quadrants. It looks like this:

I. Important  and Urgent: These are the crises and  pressing problems that we encounter every day. Many people “live” in this box because urgent matters always take precedence. They need to be done NOW. While we are all in this box some of the time, we do not want to spend all of our time here.  It can cause stress and burnout. The next time you are asked to do something that is urgent but does not support your goals, think twice before saying yes. Some of your projects need to bring you closer to your goals. That’s the II quadrant.

II. Important and Not Urgent:  This is the most important box to be in because it is planning, recognizing, building relationships — all of the things that will help you accomplish your goals. The trick is that it requires being proactive. You need to take the initiative. If you do, however, the rewards are great: this is where you get results, have a good perspective, control your day and encounter few crises.

III. Not Important and Urgent: The less time in this quadrant, the better. Here is where we find interruptions, phone calls, email, snail mail, meetings, and pressing matters that have little weight. It is crisis management at its best and the day is spent reacting to things that are probably important to someone else.

IV. Not Important and Not Urgent:  It is best to stay out of this quadrant altogether because mostly trivial activities happen here. This is where busy work belongs along with time wasters, a few phone calls and emails and pleasant activities that do not move you along toward your goals. It is not where effective people choose to be.

Want to learn more? Forbes Magazine  talks about the Four Quadrants in its January 30, 2013, issue . The article is called “How Does One Manage Time More Effectively?” Or, it is always worth investing in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

Which quadrant(s) do you spend your day in?

 

Improve Time-Wasting Habits Now

To DO

How do you spend your time? We all have the same number of hours in the day and yet some of us achieve quite a lot while others less so. Author Harvey Mackay suggests that improving our time-wasting habits is the answer. As productivity specialists, we agree with the article he wrote in the Atlanta Business Chronicle August 30-September 5, 2013. It contained seven smart suggestions:

1) Begin With A Plan Every Day so that you can focus on the right tasks; otherwise you will lose sight of what is important. Remember to make a to-do list for the following day so you can be productive as soon as you enter your work space.

2) Prioritize based on what is most important. Complete important items first.

3) Be Realistic and don’t take on too much at one time. There are times when saying no is necessary so you can complete your work on time. Otherwise, you’ll be adding stress when it can be avoided.

4) Keep Your Workspace Neat. Spend 5-10 minutes daily to put away files and get rid of the clutter. It will make a big difference and will prevent you from searching through documents to find the one you need. Statistics show that workers spend 50 minutes a day searching for documents they know they own.

5) Focus. Interruptions and distractions pull you away from what is important. While 20% of the interruptions are good, try and avoid others such as answering the phone and checking email often.

6) Get Enough Sleep. Everyone functions better when they feel rested. It puts you in control, reduces your stress level and helps you tackle problems better. According to the experts, most people need between 7 and 8 hours.

7) Take A Break. While it is tempting to continue persevering on a project until it is done, short diversions are recommended. Stopping and doing something else for a short time will take your mind off of it. When you return to the project, you will feel renewed. That is why activities such as exercise and taking time to eat lunch are a good idea and help refresh you.

Many of us are aware of these steps but putting them in practice is not always easy. Choose one of them that you currently do not do and give it a try for a week or two. Our guess is that you will like the results.

 

 

 

 

S.M.A.R.T. Goals: Have You Tried Them?

imagesCAS89A8ILast week we discussed the importance of goals but did not talk about how to accomplish them.

Often clients ask us how many goals do they need? The answer is as many as you can think of. And write them down.

Prioritize them. Decide which ones to tackle first. After all, not all of them can be worked on at the same time and some

may be more important or more timely than others.

Use the S.M.A.R.T. system to evaluate each goal and to decide if the goal is achievable.

S.M. A.R.T. is an acronym for:

S:   Specific — be as concise as possible. “W” questions as a guide: Who is involved? What do I want to achieve? Where is the location? When does it happen? Which requirements and constraints do I need to follow? Why is this goal important?

M:   Measurable — How much? How many? How will I know when I have reached my goal?

A:    Achievable — Make it attainable. What are some of the ways I can reach my goal?

R.    Realistic — How hard are you willing to work?

T.     Timely — It needs to be time-bound for a goal to be achieved.

Often people set themselves up for failure by setting goals without the specifications in the S.M.A.R.T. system.

Now that you know the steps, consult your planner and choose a date and time to work on your goals.

It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan. — Eleanor Roosevelt

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.

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.