using time productively

How to Achieve Your New Year’s Goals

Now that we’re approaching the end of the year, it is the perfect time to talk about goals which are top-of-mind for many of us. A new year and new goals go together. If you are a member of the 12% Club (people who actually stick to their resolutions), there is no need to read further. Congratulations on achieving your 2014 goals.

But for those of us who do not have goals or who did not reach them this past year, this post is for you. Why do so many of us not accomplish goals? There are a lot of reasons. Can you relate to a few of these?

  1. Long-term goals are particularly difficult to imagine. It is hard to know what to do to achieve them.
  2. Long-term goals may be off-putting, aspirational and beyond our reach. Here’s an example of a pretty lofty goal: I will grow my company to become an industry leader in two years. That’s very impressive but feels like it may be difficult to make happen. (To make you feel better, often these types of goals are created by executives who have spent days, maybe weeks, formulating them.)
  3. Often goals are vague. “Do your best” has a sincere ring to it but it is not specific enough. Unfortunately, few people bother with heavy-duty planning and coordination because they lack “glamour”.
  4. The timing may be wrong. At another time, the goal may have been accomplished. Just not now.
  5. The bar may not be set for the right “zone”. If it is too low, our efforts might stop too early. Too high and we may give up altogether.
  6. Our motivation fluctuates from day to day and is not at all dependable.
  7. The brain resists change and often sabotages our efforts.
  8. We may lack motivation – the Why. Without a burning desire to achieve the goal, it is easy to fall victim to distractions and competing priorities.

Now that we know why a goal may not succeed, are you wondering if it’s worth bothering to create and pursue them in the upcoming year? The answer is yes and here are some of the reasons why.

  • Goals give us purpose. We function better knowing that we need to meet important goals that we have personally set. There are many different types of goals – professional, personal, family and health, to name a few.
  • Goals keep us motivated and moving toward the end result, especially when we practice focus to stay on track says Daniel Goleman, author of “Focus”. By zoning in on what is important, we are able to stay on task long enough to achieve the goal.
  • Goals turn a vision into a reality. Forget day dreaming. And “someday maybe” doesn’t count either. Goals need specific criteria.
  • Goals give us an end point which can be used for measuring progress.

Imagine a spectrum. On one end are long-term goals and at the other end are shorter-term goals. Both have merit. Becoming an industry leader in two years is a long-term goal while achieving 10% more in sales in three months is at the opposite end. Small and shorter goals are just as worthy as longer term goals and may be easier to make.

The secret for achieving any goal – long or short – is to list each task. (another word for a to-do.) Some goals consist of two tasks whiles others may have twenty or more. Even daunting goals with many tasks will feel more achievable. Once all of the tasks are listed (either on paper or electronically), we can prioritize them. As each task is completed, check it off. (A great feeling!) You can chip away at a goal this way, one task at a time. Or, think of it as one bite of the elephant at a time. If, at any point you are unsure what to do next, refer back to the goal and the list of tasks to help you prioritize. The decision will be a lot easier.

By tackling a goal one step at a time, you will be able to manage your time so you can reach any type of goal. When you plan your day, decide the three most important tasks that must be done. At least one of these tasks should be related to your goal. Eventually, these small, doable tasks will help you reach the goal you’ve set out to accomplish.

When we work on these tasks neuroscientists call this “goal pursuit” — the process of creating and going after the goal. It is the journey – accomplishing the small tasks — that counts. Without a commitment to the journey, the goal can be lost. How easy it is to become derailed along the way!

Achieving a goal is a satisfying experience and well worth the hard work.  Have you decided which goals you are going to pursue in 2015?

How to Make the Most of Holiday Time

The next six weeks will be filled with parties, concerts and events. Some of them are obligatory — you may not want to attend your office party but must show up with a smile on your face. But you may be looking forward to your child’s concert at school and annual soirees with friends. Many people consider this period of time at work to be unproductive. Between late-night parties, holiday lunches and gift-swapping in the office, most are not focusing as intently on the business. In fact, many business people consider this period of time to be pretty unproductive.

Unless you do not plan on showing up between Thanksgiving and New Years, there is still work that needs attending to although, admittedly, your work load may be lighter. Your firm’s 2015 business plans have been completed and are ready for action starting in January. With fewer of your colleagues in the office, there are fewer meetings, fewer reports due and fewer tasks that require your immediate attention. Clients may be on vacation or spending less time in the office so they may be less demanding.

You have a choice. You can “float” through this period and pay minimal attention to work or decide that you’ll use this down time productively. There are a host of opportunities available. It is just a matter of deciding if you want to take this course of action. Why not? Think of the projects that you have put off because you have not had the time. This is your chance to get to them. Some of these projects can help you reach your goals. By starting them now, you will likely have fewer interruptions and a greater chance to complete them than during the year when more urgent tasks and to-dos come up and derail you.

What are examples of projects that you may want to tackle now? How about researching an area that may prove profitable for your company? How about exploring new ideas? You have a list but you never have time to explore them. Or perhaps you want to learn a skill that will improve your performance at work such as the task feature in Microsoft Outlook or how to use Evernote. It is frustrating not to know these features but, without the time to explore the tasks function or how to navigate Evernote, you have had to make do. Here is the opportunity you have been waiting for all year. Taking a class at a school or an on-line video tutorial from a company such as Lynda.com requires time, energy and focus … and now you have it!

I would be remiss if I did not mention that this is a perfect time to get organized. If your office is piled high with paper, why not go through the stacks and decide if you can live without some of them. Most likely the answer is a resounding ‘yes’! Our clients often print out duplicates of documents because they can not find it on their desk (even though they know it’s there somewhere). Their first response is to reprint it. Ask yourself if you need it or would be able to get it again. Probably not although there are still a few documents that we need to hold onto. Often there are legal papers such as contracts. If another person in the company issued the document, then it’s likely that person will have the original copy. If you need to keep a document, decide where its home should be — on your desk (if you are actively working on it), in a filing cabinet, on your computer as an electronic file?

Once the paper clutter is reined in, it’s time to focus on the electronic clutter which may be more serious than the paper clutter. If files are scattered about without any rhyme or reason, take time now to figure out where each document belongs. Once the new year begins, this project will unlikely take precedence over urgent ones.

While you are organizing your office, there may be other things that you can do to improve its functionality. What tools might make it easier to stay organized — a whiteboard for mapping, wall files that can keep your folders handy, a second monitor? You might take a look around the office for ideas or browse the The Container Store or an office supply store. You could even ask your colleagues what organizing tools they like the best.

Have I convinced you yet to take advantage of this holiday time to do something different and still stay productive? Without having to spend all of your time on urgent, important projects, you can focus on other areas in your work and professional life that are also meaningful.

 

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.

 

Organize Your Electronic Files

How quickly can you find an electronic file? Are your files scattered throughout the computer in any number of places such as the hard drive, documents, the cloud or portable storage? Electronic folders that are not filed in their right locations can be just as messy and cluttered as paper folders.

So much of what we do today is electronic that we need a plan to organize electronic files similar to the way we organize paper files. While many offices still rely on paper to some extent, we are gradually moving away from paper to storing documents electronically which is a compelling reason to set up a system to organize electronic file folders.

There are numerous benefits of an organized electronic filing system. Here are some of the reasons to act now and get your computer files in order:

  • Saves you time when you can find what you need quickly and easily, even years later.
  • Easy to maintain.
  • Helps you be more productive, and look more professional, especially when your boss needs a file now.
  • Keeps documents current because the system identifies which documents can be disposed of and when.
  • Saves physical storage space and money by reducing the number of filing cabinets and office floor space needed.
  • Uses your time more efficiently by reducing the time you, or an assistant, spends retrieving and re-filing physical records.

If you share files with others, here are some advantages to having organized file folders:

  • Team members can access shared folders and find what they need quickly, without interrupting anyone.
  • Document ownership is easy to determine.
  • Fewer copies of documents need to be printed as long as you, and the other team members, can access the document easily on line.
  • Less printing = less paper clutter.
  • It is easy to edit a document and share it with others.
  • New employees can be brought up to speed quickly.

Tips to organize your electronic filing system:

  1. Make sure that the electronic filing system meets the needs of the office, that all documents have a place in the system and that everyone understands and buys into the system.
  2. Create a flow chart (electronic or paper) showing the type of information that will be available and the departments or people needing access to specific files.
  3. Set up a system everyone will be comfortable with and will use.
  4. Mirror your paper folders using the same headings and topics as your paper system. The more similar the two systems, the better.
  5. Be consistent about naming conventions. Set up files, folders and subfolders that everyone will find meaningful and easy to understand.
  6. Limit the number of clicks to three: file, folder and subfolder. There is no need to go any deeper. Note: whatever filing name system you choose, it needs to match your needs and/or the group’s needs.
  7. Use a hierarchal system to organize files instead of a horizontal one. Group all projects and files relating to a particular project, person or thing together instead of using separate folders. For example, a hierarchy for a client file folder might look like this:
    • File: Clients
    • Folder: Individual Client Names
    • Subfolders: Descriptive topic names such as communication, contact information, taxes by year, etc.
  8. Follow file naming conventions including client account numbers and revision date. Use underscores, not spaces. For example, an individual client name may look like this: tomjones_3579_11-30-14. Keep file names under 27 characters, all lower case.
  9. Use the same format for dates. The key is to be consistent.
  10. Add as much information into the file name as possible so it will not be necessary to open it. Be descriptive. An example of a subfolder under communication might be: casesummary1114 (for November, 2014). Don’t just put in “letter.”
  11. If others also work on the document, add your initials at the end.
  12. Avoid abbreviations and codes that are not immediately obvious to everyone.
  13. Set up an index for quick reference, particularly if you use shortened versions of words such as DFT for draft or CTR for contract. Make sure that information is readily available to everyone with access to the file folders. If an abbreviation is not necessary, do not use it.
  14. Delete previous revisions once document is final.
  15. Create a records retention schedule based on function and date to ensure that outdated electronic documents are disposed of when they are no longer needed.
  16. Be ruthless about the documents you save. The more data on the computer the more difficult it is to find necessary documents.
  17. Move frequently-used files to the top of the file folder list by adding an “a” or ! (any symbol works) at the beginning of the file name.
  18. File as you go. Do not wait until you have a long list.
  19. Clean out your file folders at specific times (after a certain number, every Friday, etc.)
  20. Back up files regularly.

Work-Life Balance: Does It Exist?

Is it really possible to achieve a balance between work and life? Are we capable of fitting it all in? The term Work-Life Balance became popular in the 1980’s when corporations did not offer much in the way of flexible options. Picture a seesaw with work loading down one side and everything else, a.k.a. life, on the other side.

Many people have come to the conclusion that work-life balance is a myth, especially living in our all-consuming tech world. Email, smart phones and tablets blur the lines between work and all else. The office and our clients can reach us anytime, anywhere. We find ourselves “on” 24/7. There is always a lot to do and too few hours in the day to get our to-dos done.

Cali Yost, author and CEO of the Flex+Strategy Group, has given work-life balance a new name, work-life fit. Balance implies that work and life are at opposite ends which we know is not true. Work-life fit is a proactive approach, giving people more flexibility than they realize. Work can be a variety of win-wins for workers and employers.

In her book Work + Life Yost points out that the key is to find the fit that’s right for you which will allow you to be in control. You get to spend time with the people who are most meaningful in your life and to decide how much time and energy you put into activities.

Below are 12 work-life fit tips that will help you focus on the activities that are most meaningful to you:

    1. Set crystal clear goals. Identify the goals that are important to you such as, work, professional, family, friends, keeping fit, your faith, and even fun. Too often, we are on autopilot and do not think about the ways we spend our time. If you want to make partner in a law firm, be prepared to devote the time and energy it will require. Clarifying your goals will serve as a roadmap going forward.
    2. Ask yourself for every activity you are involved in: Does this activity add value? Does it meet my goals? Evaluate each and every project. Are you spending too much time and energy on an area that will be of little consequence to you in the long run? Eliminating a task can free you up to work on priority projects. For example: Do you still need to be attending association meetings from an earlier career? You might be able to meet your friends somewhere else and not be bound to a particular meeting time.
    3. Eliminate as many errands as possible and combine the rest. Take a critical look at your errands which can take a chunk out of the day. Consider outsourcing whenever possible and batch the rest together. Do errands together that are in the same part of town.
    4. Exercise. Study after study shows that working out benefits the mind and the body. You’ll need to carve out the time because it won’t happen, especially if your schedule is jam-packed, without being proactive. Make the time because it certainly won’t come to you.
    5. Get enough sleep. Sleep-deprived individuals do not think clearly. Lack of sleep causes problems regarding focusing, stress, and sometimes serious medical issues. The Better Sleep Council survey in 2013 found that almost half of all Americans do not get enough sleep. (http://bettersleep.org/better-sleep/the-science-of-sleep/sleep-statistics-research/better-sleep-survey)
    6. Start slowly and keep a journal. If you decide that you want to make a change in your work-life fit, do it gradually and mindfully. There is no need to rush into this. Even small changes can have a big impact. Keep track of these changes with a journal.
    7. Find a balance between work and enjoyment. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. There’s some truth to that. Plan on doing fun things such as spending time with family and friends, learning a hobby, or taking a class to advance your professional career. All of these activities will expand your mind and, believe it or not, make you better at your job.
    8. Set boundaries. Are you going to answer that text or email on a Saturday afternoon? Let your clients and colleagues know what is acceptable. They will appreciate your candidness.
    9. Say no, especially if it interferes with your goals. If a supervisor asks you to handle a specific project, ask him/her what project(s) you should work on first. If you report to several supervisors, let them make the decision.That way you can stay out of it.
    10. Re-evaluate your goals periodically. As life changes, so do our goals. Set a certain time quarterly to sit down and review your goals. Mark it in your calendar. Something may have changed that could affect your current list of goals. For example, a promotion, or a new baby, might cause you to rethink the future.
    11. Select an accountability partner. Bounce ideas off of someone you trust who can help you stay on track and meet your goals. Ask someone who is committed to your well-being such as a co-worker, a friend or a coach.
    12. Reduce the amount of television you watch and the time on the Internet. Both are black holes. Not many of your activities will get done if you are searching the web or watching hours of television.

 

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:

 

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.

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?

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.